The Future of My Head
My wife teaches sociology and for the last several years she has given the same assignment to her class. They must choose one form of technology that is a significant part of their life – phone is usually the top choice – and go without it for a long enough period of time in order to feel the effects of not having it. Then they write about the process and what they experienced. Students also need to let significant people know they will be offline so they won't worry if they don't get their usual timely response. Want to guess what happens when she has this assignment?
You’re right. Some students barely can do it. Most students have a hard time with it and every year the amount of time away from their technology dwindles. A few years ago she told me a student wrote that if she couldn’t post pictures of her food why go out to eat. I thought that was pretty extreme, and that was a few years ago.
Students go through stages. Usually at first they get anxious and nervous and think of something to do. They clean their apartments, take walks, talk to friends. They pretty universally discover that it has been some time since they did any of those things without their phone having its presence felt. They tend to worry about being disconnected from the world. They have phantom physical experiences where they think they hear or feel their phone. They know something is happening and they don’t know what it is. Yet they discover they actually enjoy the time without the phone once they surrender to it. Students often say they had this really great conversation with someone. But, mostly, especially after some time they can’t wait to get back again to their device. They say they liked the time off the grid and would like to do it again, but will they ever? My wife is not sure.
She and I got to talking about how more and more technology is an active ingredient in our lives. Our next car may drive us while we text without fear of being ticketed. Soon people will get implants so they can have some of the skill sets that cars, toasters and robots possess. We were walking the dog when we had this conversation and we imagined that anyone could have a chip implanted that allowed them to see a screen in front of them while walking down the street. People would be able to overlay in their field of vision Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google maps and anything else. It is rather frightening to think about a quiet stroll now becoming a thing of the past. Not sure how soon it will happen, but when it does there will be a lot of digital natives lined up around the block.
I wasn't around when the printing press was discovered. Maybe there were parents lamenting that now their kids just want to read and not do chores or play. I wrote a post about how people are spending less time outdoors now and I imagine the way things are evolving (?) we aren't going to see much of a back to nature movement. I am sure each generation has its own laments about what is happening to the youth so perhaps this is just my turn. But, not one to miss my turn, I do want to say it does please me when I see kids playing outdoors without their phones. I don't see a lot of teens or millenials without theirs close at hand, but perhaps one of these days we will have a dedicated day without tech and we will see how many people skip eating out because they can't post pictures of their food.