Living twenty-four hours without interacting with electronic media. Such a task seems simple enough, but of course anyone who has attempted it would likely say that it’s easier said then done. I know I have. Although I don’t consider myself as technologically inclined as many college students in some regards (my cell phone gathers dust from time to time, if such a thing is possible) I knew that I was still very technologically dependent.Just how technologically dependent I was became quite evident to me when I attempted this challenge over Spring Break.
In her article “The Longest Day” Danna Walker explains just how electronic technology has been a subtle influence on the current age college students that have grown up with it:
“And yet, even though they are savvy, articulate, emotionally attached and educated consumers of electronic media, millennials don’t actually think much about it. At the beginning of the semester, my students seemed surprised to learn they are trail-blazers in a time of great upheaval in the media world. But they became painfully aware once forced to unplug.”
Indeed such a thought brought back memories to me as I started the day without the welcoming tunes of my iHome to pull me out of sleep. As I began to plot out the days activities in my head I began to realize just how much of my life has been spent around electronic technologies like computers and video games. The event reminded me of a moment many years back when a random power outage meant no electronic activities over a rainy day. Although the outage only lasted a few hours, it created a struggle when, being unable to play outside, I tried to figure out ways to pass the boredom. This event was beginning to replay itself here.
Ultimately I decided to use the opportunity to catch up on some tasks that I had been neglecting. Walker explains how some of her students went out, caught up on sleep, and read to pass the time. Reading was one such thing I decided to try over the twenty-four hour period. Although I am normally an avid reader over the winter and summer, schoolwork keeps me from reading series that I want to catch up on. Not in the mood to study, I decided to take the opportunity catch up on some reading. Unfortunately I never finished the book I started. Unfortunate since after the twenty-four hour period I never got back to reading it being easily distracted by something else.
As I continued through the day, I noticed something interesting. Electronic media has grown so much, that it has had an influence on activities that traditionally had no need of the stuff. When I decided to take some time work ahead in preparing adventures for my Dungeons and Dragons group, something that occasionally gets left for the last minute, I realized that I couldn’t use my computer to type up notes like I normally did, or look up a rule easily. Gah! As one of the traditional pencil and paper games, it didn’t occur to me until now just how much games like that have evolved through the use of electronic technologies. Now games like that (and even board games) can be played online through instant message technologies and online games. Instead of play by mail for games like chess, now you have play by E-Mail. Unfortunately the day was not all peaceful as temptations to use electronic media were abound, made especially difficult by the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl a few days before. To have time to play it and yet be unable to felt ironic. Yet I knew that spring break was still young, and I would have time to unlock Snake and Sonic later.
Although it was a long day indeed, I managed to survive somehow. After resting up and getting back to Brawl the next day I contemplated the exercise. The new forms of media and technology have become essential to everyday life. With the ability to communicate and transfer data instantly society has evolved to become reliant on the stuff. People, myself included, have become slaves to technologies to the computer. Constantly checking e-mail, news, and social networking sites like Facebook to become up to date on the latest going-ons and events. As Walker points out, “E-media keep us up to the minute on information, facilitate relationships without geographic constraint, make logistics easier and sometimes help us relax and fight boredom.” Although there was not much waiting for me when I connected to the internet the next day, there could have been something important, you never know.
Is this reliance a bad thing? Although these new technologies have granted us great new tools such as Wikipedia, old technologies like the encyclopedia have taken an entirely new form. As Stacy Schiff points out in her article “Know it All: Can Wikipedia Conquer Expertise?” Wikipedia and those behind it believe that it can “produce an encyclopedia that is as good as any written by experts, and with an unprecedented range.”Of course, with this new rise in technology come new threats in the form of online hackers using the internet to obtain and exploit personal information. Problems abound arise with this rise in electronic technology. Yet that is only natural as a new technology grows and matures. Will we ever fully understand how to deal with this? Elizabeth Eisenstein notes in “The Rise of Public Reading” the ambiguous nature of the influence of older technologies like print media through today:
“Even at present, despite all the data being obtained from living responsive subjects; despite all the efforts being made by public opinion analysts, pollsters, or behavioral scientists, we still know very little about how access to printed materials affected human behavior.”
It is hard to determine what the future will bring as electronic media and technologies continue to dominate our lives. But as society has been influenced and repeatedly changed by the technologies that have come before, these forms will continue to evolve and effect how we live our lives.
Eisenstein, Elizabeth. “The Rise of the Reading Public.” Communication in History. Comp. David Crowley and Paul Heyer. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.
Schiff, Stacy. “Know it All.” Annals of Information. The New Yorker. .
Walker, Danna. “The Longest Day.” washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. .