New technology: too much of a good thing?

Walking to class everyday, an overwhelming amount of students (often including myself) are chatting away on cell phones. If we're not actually talking on the phone, we're at least clutching it in our hands, waiting for the next incoming call. All across campus, we're clicking away on our laptops with Facebook, MySpace, e-mail, and AOL Instant Messanger open and ready on the screens.

It's no longer surprising to see people listening to their iPods or text messaging while sitting in class. (Did you know that the number of text messages sent and received each day exceeds the population of the planet?) We're so addicted to technology that it's almost to the point of obsession. We often laugh at our parents and grandparents, who say things like, "in our day, we didn't have all this technology to communicate with, and you know, things were actually a lot more personal." We think it's amusing that past generations had to rely on actual face-to-face interaction rather than perhaps communicating with some people in our lives only through AIM, e-mails or cell phones. But it's actually a lot more sad than funny.

Last week I was at Target buying a new digital camera and I was informed by a sales clerk that in just one year, the model of my previous digital camera no longer existed because it had been upgraded. Upgrading technology is a positive thing, but it becomes scary to think that possibly very soon, upgrading technology will occur on a daily basis, rather than in yearly intervals. Can you imagine all the makes and models of cell phones, laptops, and digital cameras that will be in circulation if that happens?

I think that our generation especially is becoming too dependent on technology. Sometimes I catch myself sending an instant message to my housemate, who happens to be sitting 10 feet away in the next room. Technology is not only making us lazy, but also obsessed. Think of how many times you check your e-mail in an hour, or how many times you've updated your Facebook picture or MySpace profile recently.

I'm not trying to imply that I don't take part in this technology obsession from time to time, or that I don't appreciate the advantages and ease of a computer or cell phone, because I definitely do. But I do think sometimes that we get so caught up in the benefits of technology that we lose sight of the importance of human interaction and individual development.

For example, I recently found out that Nintendo invested more than $140 million in research and development in 2002 alone. That fact might not affect us too much, but I also found out that during the same year, the U.S. government spent less than half as much on research and innovation in education. Those are some pretty depressing statistics.

There's no way we can avoid technology or deny its numerous benefits. But while praising its advantages, we can also be aware of its downfalls. If we try not to rely too heavily on technology to communicate and also acknowledge that life will still go on if we sign off the Internet from time to time or don't have a cell phone glued to our ear 24/7, we can undoubtedly still enjoy the many perks of technology.