We’ve all experienced it: you’re sitting in a room with friends or family, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, two minutes go by, and no one is speaking. You look around only to find that everyone in the room has their eyes locked on their own respective electronic device. The TV is probably running, as well. We are all familiar with the strange and simultaneous feeling of closeness yet fundamental separation. When this happens, sometimes the reality and eeriness of it is like getting hit with a ton of bricks. For a moment, you are all at once taken aback and annoyed and then you get tired of sitting around without talking to anyone, so you give up your feeling of disillusion and retreat to your own electronic device.

 

There is a reason why we are stricken with paralyzing and earth-shattering panic in the few milliseconds it takes for your shiny, 4.5” by 2.3” piece of technology to fall out of your hand and hit the floor; your whole life on that teeny tiny device flashes before your eyes as you desperately cradle it in your hands and check for any sign of damage, and your whole world simultaneously neutralizes as you turn it over and lo and behold, the screen lights up again. The fact that everyone is familiar with this realization of our dependence on technology and has also inevitably been guilty of it (we’ve all been “that guy” who takes out their phone to check their email at brunch or checks their Twitter at a family function; we’ve all been ashamed of it) says a lot about the problem we are facing. It’s not just annoying when someone takes out their phone during a meal, movie night, or even conversation, it is a legitimate problem that each of us must tackle individually and assess as a human race.

 

Thinking in terms of human evolution, whenever a certain stimuli is repeatedly introduced to a specific species, the being will adjust as necessary in response to said stimuli. It may seem radical to suggest that technology will debilitate the human population and cause a steady decline in human contact and fundamental communication, but the recent advent of technology is such a prominent stimuli in all of our lives, it is worth asking what effect our growing reliance on technology will have on our species in the long term. For example, the diagnosis of ADHD in children has raised dramatically — three percent annually from the years 1997 to 2006 and counting — with the rapid progression of technology and the rise in the number of screens children are exposed to at an early age.

 

Instant gratification is what technology allows us, and instant gratification is the expectation. If our iPhone lags (those of you readers who are stuck still using the iPhone 4 can relate) even for a few seconds, we get frustrated. We have become so accustomed to these small devices doing the everyday grunt-work for us, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without them. We probably would never remember the name of that guy from that movie, we wouldn’t be able to “Shazam” a song at a moments notice, we would have to suffer through every moment of the awkwardness that is being alone at a party until your friends arrive, and we would probably die of boredom during the 40 minutes wait in line at the DMV to get our licenses renewed. So what will happen as technology not only stays as a dominant and ever-present force in our lives, but rapidly progresses to become even faster, more efficient, more life-consuming? Will face-to-face communication become a lost art? Our world is steadily becoming more and more digital: books are online, photographs are online, we communicate and interact online, you can even earn a valid education completely online, no physical human interaction necessary; in the future, will our only reality lie in the digital world?

 

These suggestions aren’t meant to be doomsday-esque predictions about the fall of humanity, mere musings about a trend in human behavior and where that seems to be advancing us as a whole. It isn’t a cardinal sin to check your phone every once in a while; to play candy crush on the subway, or in line at the DMV, or in the bathroom at work, or at your god-daughter’s christening… Just try to remember the value of human interaction as you go about your day and remember to never take advantage of the time you spend face-to-face with your loved ones. If everyone does that, we are heading in the right direction.

 

Do you find our reliance and constant stimulation from technology problematic? Do you often find yourself attached to your phone at inopportune times? Tell us what you think; leave a response in the comments below or find me on twitter @JenksUOhMeASoda