As I walked through Sturges Quad on a recent afternoon, I noticed that almost every student around me appeared to have some kind of technological device in hand. It is now inevitable that one see people getting deeply involved in text messaging, jamming out to an iPod or possibly doing both in public settings.
Students of our generation are very fortunate to have a variety of new and interesting technologies at their disposal: iPad, iPod, cell phone, Kindle – you name it, someone has it. Though these devices are certainly interesting and useful, they can be very detrimental to their users.
Many students using electronic devices rarely look up except to make sure they aren't walking into something. They keep to themselves and are sucked into the antisocial technological twilight zone. I'm guilty as well: When I walk to class alone, I'll usually put my headphones in and zone out instead of talking to the people around me. The ability to interact in social situations is now irrelevant because even in public people can simply force themselves back into a secluded bubble using technology.
It's the cliché our parents are constantly yelling at us about: "In my day you actually had to talk face-to-face with people." Of course, we usually tune out once they start talking about how they had to walk five miles to school barefoot and in the snow, but there is truth in what they're saying – well, the first part at least.
Instead of walking up to a friend, we can send a text. Instead of calling people up and inviting them to a party, we make a Facebook event. Instead of taking the steps to actually get to know a classmate, we StumbleUpon and tweet and avoid any kind of social interaction. Instead of going out at night, we play Xbox for hours without ever leaving the couch. It's become way too easy to completely avoid physically interacting with people.
When in an awkward situation with people you don't know well, what is your first reaction? Most of us will grab our phone and send out a text to regain some stability with people we already know. It has become debilitating: If you forget your phone, it's as if a part of you is missing. It's just a silly piece of metal and plastic, but it holds a ridiculous amount of sentimental value.
I am, of course, not suggesting that you stop using your iPod, computer and whatever other devices you hold dear. I'm just suggesting that you leave those things at home once in a while. Take a walk without being wired in and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Notice your surroundings, and enjoy them. Step out of your comfort zone and away from the technology.