Walking down the streets of Manhattan for the past few months, I’ve noticed that things have been a bit quieter. It’s pretty nice to be honest…with the summer coming to a close and the autumn creeping around the corner, I like the feeling of peace and tranquility that has come over the city. Cars and trucks seem to be getting quieter. Vagabonds in the East Village seem to be less obnoxiously crazy. And people don’t seem to be laughing and talking or yelling the way that they used to. It’s actually very nice in the city these days. However, New Yorkers are not known for being quiet…so what gives? It’s the iPhone and Smartphone Devolution.
It seems like conversations are a thing of the past — at least those that involve face-to-face time. The business of convenience has changed the way that we live our lives, view the outside world, and the way we interact with it. Technology is changing the way that we live with each new innovation. Each and every new gizmo or application that comes out, distances us an inch further from the outside world. The beauty of it all is that by doing so, we feel that we are gaining something — although the reality is that we are losing a whole lot.
We feel that we deserve things to be given to us conveniently. We believe that it is good to share our thoughts and experiences with the rest of the world. We believe that it would be nice to catch this or that moment on camera. We believe that we are being more social by frequenting social networks. When you look at it on paper, it would only seem to make sense that doing all of these things would benefit us in some way.
We are capturing memories and sharing them with friends. We can come in contact with people from across the world at a whim. We can find whatever information we wish to, just by digging into our pockets. We have packaged our world into a handheld device. Remarkable.
Saved By The Bell
What you don’t consider is all that you are giving up — the tradeoffs. Time is the most valuable commodity on the planet. It is one that can never be bought or sold, but can be rented or given. Every time that we decide to do something with our time, we are actively not doing everything and anything else with it. We are essentially trading off experiences — experiences that make up our lives.
Do you know what you are giving up every time that you are on your phone instead of having an actual conversation with the person sitting across form you at the dinner table? Do you know what your eye is missing when you are recording that concert or that birthday party? Do you have any clue as to all the precious moments you are giving up when you’re with your partner and you are too busy updating your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, Pinterest…?
Of course you don’t, and you never will. You gave up the opportunity to see where those paths would lead you. You can’t go back and relive those moments. It may all seem okay now…but sooner or later the people that are most important in your life won’t be around any longer. How do you think you will feel then when you decided that you would prefer to tweet than to spend the precious time that you have on this planet with the people you love?
How do you think it will weigh on you when the only thing you want in the world is to have a conversation with them again, spend one more night with them, take one more walk with them, hold their hand one more time or just thank them for being part of your life, and you realize that you traded it away… you traded it all away for a couple of Facebook likes. Life happens with or without you and once the reel ends, the theatre is vacated for good.
It’s not just the times itself that we are losing. Because we spend so much time focusing and spending our time on our smartphones, we dull our perception of the outside world. Although human beings are capable of perceiving the outside world even when their main focus lies elsewhere, in order to perceive in detail our focus must be directly on the subject matter — our minds have to be in the present and not thinking about all that we read on the Internet.
Information comes at a price; while it is believed that knowledge is the most powerful weapon on the planet, processing the information takes up a large amount of our cognitive functioning. This truly becomes a problem when the information that you are absorbing, processing and obsessing over brings stress into your life — which often is the case.
The more time that we spend in the cyber world, the less capable we are of appreciating the real world and hence, the less capable we are of enjoying it. We are moving into an age where virtual reality could become a complete substitute for physical reality. As technology progresses, so will the intensity of experiences that technological innovations simulate. It is highly probable that in the next 3-4 decades, a large percentage of the middle class will spend their times plugged into a virtual reality that feels just as real as our actual reality, but better because you will find yourself completely in control of your life and your world.
Fewer and fewer people will be pleased with their real life because they will continuously be comparing it to their virtual life where they are wealthy, healthy, fit and regular Casanovas. This, of course, is a ways down the line, but the impact that our current technology has had on the population is tremendous. It has gotten so bad that some studies are pointing to the possibility that Generation-Yers are never developing or are losing their abilities to hold conversations over the phone and/or in person. What is it about the real world that so few people seem to enjoy? I understand that no one’s life is perfect…but who said it had to be in order for you to enjoy it?