A lot happened yesterday in the world and I know almost about all of it from my two cell phones and my laptop. I learned about the tragic soccer riots in Egypt through my Twitter feed, Susan G. Koman for the Cure’s decision to stop supporting Planned Parenthood from a blog, Facebook going public was all over social media, and I got my sports scores from a Droid app.
I called my parents on their cell phones, and my aunt, texted with my best friend, even my boyfriend usually calls before he knocks on the door thinking there’s a better chance he’ll reach me via technology than just by rapping on the piece of wood that separates us.
It’s a point that’s been expounded upon hundreds, if not thousands, of times: the role of technology in social interaction, learning and most facets of our everyday lives. But as our lives become more and more intertwined with communicative technology it’s likely to continue to be asked frequently and without a clear-cut answer, chicken and egg style.
So what did one mid-20s Chicago grad student do to help answer the question for himself, he decided to check himself out of the technology world for three months. Jake Reilly, son of author and sports journalist Rick Reilly, relinquished technology for 90 days to see what would happen. Judging by comments on articles about “The Amish Project” and various commentary, the experiment seems to have brought about a great cultural divide. For nearly half the world’s population, instant anywhere, anytime communication is not a lifelong dependency. But it is now. I used to occasionally forget my cell phone at home…now I’m more likely to forget my wallet, it often seems less necessary.
I’m not advocating dropping your electronic devices in a safe, deactivating all of your online accounts and living the free life. Being 700 miles from my family I rely on e-mail, text and social media to keep in touch and often to receive and relay news. I love Twitter to get information, if only partial information. Reilly’s response seems pretty dramatic to me.
But I do find myself sometimes feeling less informed. I don’t have to go searching for news, the people I subscribe to hand it to me. I don’t read a newspaper; I rarely read actually, I skim: headlines, ledes, photos. My parents often joke they talk to me less when I’m at home and I know I have been guilty of being on my phone, along with my friends, when sitting in a room together supposedly hanging out. I’m so used to being able to contact people instantaneously it makes me nervous when I can’t for some reason.
I know I could never drop everything for 90 days, nor would I want to in all honesty, but maybe someday I’ll at least take a tech-free vacation. Maybe. After all, without my Open Table and TripAdvisor apps, how would I know where to eat?
Jen Schiller is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at Jennifer@MaroonPR.com.