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Technology in Everyday Life: Plug Away or Pull the Plug?

by Janine Boylan on February 11, 2013

man with plugs in his hair, showing overuse of technology in everyday life

Are we too plugged in?
© Thinkstock

How Plugged In Are You?

Think about the technology in your everyday life.

  • Do you go on dates with your smartphone?
  • Do you excuse yourself to go to the restroom and check your email?
  • At a coffee shop or airport, do you try to get the seat nearest to the outlet?
  • In line, do you immediately pull out your smartphone for something to do?
  • Do you think your smartphone makes you smarter?

If you answered “yes” to the last question, then you must disagree with a quote circulating the Internet. Attributed (incorrectly) to Albert Einstein, it states that, when technology surpasses human interaction, there will be a generation of idiots.

A series of photos accompanying the quote show people engaged so intently with their smartphones that it brings up an interesting issue: Are we all too plugged in?

people using smartphones, showing how technology in everyday life can keep us from communicating

Are our devices a distraction?
© Sheron Long

The Role of the Smartphone

In our house, no smartphones are allowed at the dinner table. Inevitably, though, one of us will run to get a device during the meal because we have to look up an appointment time on iCalendar or we need to Google some question we can’t answer.

We go on walks and tuck our phones in our pockets in case of emergency. But they manage to wiggle out when we wonder what some landmark is, when we want to take a photo, or even when it gets a little too dark and we need a flashlight.

I worry that we have our noses in our devices more than we should.

After all, my smartphone is, to name a few: my appointment book, mailbox, shopping list, library book, flashlight, alarm clock, camera, photo album, audio player, dictionary, encyclopedia set, calculator, newspaper, weather report, oh, and phone.

Wait! Oh, I see. It’s not that it’s bad to be plugged in. It’s just that this little device has taken the place of so many other tools.

There’s just something about doing all of these functions on a small device that doesn’t get as much respect as doing them the “old-fashioned” ways.

When I see someone looking at a smartphone or on the computer, I don’t feel badly about interrupting. But if I saw the same person engrossed in a book, or pouring over a hand-written letter, or writing out a list, I would probably pause before talking. True, we all tend to reach for the devices more readily than we reach for reference tomes, but the intent is the same.

Do the Devices Stop Communication?

Actually, no. Many times, we share photos from them, watch videos together on them, or, during a conversation, look up things we can’t remember. And often we’ll send a quick text to record an idea we would have otherwise forgotten.

There are times the devices seem to be barriers to communication. It’s easy to get caught up in a game and not lift my head for thirty minutes. But I remember doing that with a deck of cards and solitaire, too.

So, I think being plugged in is fine—as long as we use technology in everyday life as a tool and a way to reinforce face-to-face relationships.

And the games? Well, Einstein did have a strong personal opinion about that: “I do not play games . . . . There is not time for it. When I get through with work, I don’t want anything that requires the working of the mind.”

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