The Dangers of Being Plugged In

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Author: Tanvi Varma

Although the advancement in technology has simplified our lives by enabling faster and easier communication, it has also played a negative role. Since people are connected through social media — accessible on the latest smartphones — they seldom choose to interact with people face-to-face. As a result, the brain is not used to its full capacity because conversations have become increasingly useless. A typical conversation via text or Facebook consists of:

Person 1: “Hey”

Person 2: “Hey”

Person 1: “What’s up?”

Person 2: “Nothing much, you?

Person 1: “Nothing much either.”

Hours later, Person 2 will respond asking the same exact question, hoping that the answer will change and the conversation will prolong. However, there is no actual substance to the conversation. On the contrary, when having a face-to-face conversation with a person, an individual must have topics to keep the conversation going or else it becomes awkward. Overall, the advancement of technology is diminishing our ability to have an impromptu face-to-face conversation with someone we have never met before. This is partly because it challenges us to go outside our comfort zone, and connecting through social media does not.

Similarly, technology and social media give us instant access to information that unfortunately hinder individuals from thinking deeply. Whenever there is an opportunity to delve into critical analysis or underlying thinking, people will look for the answer on the Internet, because they presume someone has already posted the information. It is the easier method rather than challenging ourselves to come to our own conclusions. I don’t believe the concepts of deep thought and reflection exist amongst our generation. We have become extremely attached to technology and more concerned with obtaining the latest gadget than about what is actually going on around us.

Society is partly to blame because its always quick to jump on the latest gadget coming out of Silicon Valley. For example, when Apple launched the Iphone 6 and 6 Plus, it created a major hype that brought people to Apple stores in droves. Some people even ordered the phones without seeing what they look like. Similarly, since the Iphone 6 and 6 Plus are significantly larger, clothing companies were forced to create special jeans that have large enough pockets to accommodate the bigger size phone. This is the power of technology. At this rate, there is going to be an app or device for every single brain function. When this happens, we will become thoughtless bodies that are completely dependent on technology. Without it, we will feel incomplete or lost.

I have noticed that people are forced to truly absorb the world around them and reflect, when they are completely “unplugged.” When individuals know that they do not have any access to their devices, they gradually start to immerse themselves in the daily activities. Aspects they may not have paid much attention to before start to seem more important and have some sort of value. For example, the summer before my senior year, I spent five days in Texas with 30 other students. None of us had our phones or any electronic device, which was extremely difficult because we had never experienced being “unplugged.” The first day, each of us went through significant withdrawals. We were forced to make conversation with other people, which was tough because we had to actually think and concentrate on what to talk about. We couldn’t just make general comments, because we wanted to keep the conversation going.

However, when I started immersing myself in the volunteer work, I realized that if I had had my phone or access to social media, I would not have paid as much attention to the world around me. I would not have bonded with other people, because I would have been too busy having a relationship with my phone. I would not have thought about what I was actually doing and instead would have mechanically done it. When people don’t have their phones, they are forced to think about what they’re doing and why. It brings up questions because we have the mental capacity to think about them. Our minds are not thinking about 10 other things. They are clear and in the present.

In college, it is difficult to be completely unplugged, however, it is not impossible. In order to enable the mind to think and reflect, I recommend incorporating more critical analysis into the classroom environment. It would create an atmosphere for peaceful thinking and intellectual discussions. It would be a period for students to reflect, in the hopes that they may gain a deeper perspective on life. My recommendation is based on the fact that I do not know whether technology can enhance deeper reflection. In past experience, technology has been a distraction, and I am unsure whether it will continue to be, or whether it can be used in a different manner.

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