Are We Becoming Too Digitized?

With Tech Devices At The Tips of Our Fingers, We Must Draw the Line Between the Useful and the Obsessive


Phil Skinner

(Courtesy of Phil Skinner/MCT)


Each day we see hoards of people trudging along, eyes glued to their iPhones, and texting as if their lives depended on it. I’ve been a part of this crowd before—and it has been the cause of some of my most embarrassing nosedives. But while texting is much easier and faster than calling—especially when you’re in a rush (and everyone is always in a rush)—we seem to have crossed the line separating “useful” and “obsessive.”

(Courtesy of Phil Skinner/MCT)

I know that in addition to texting, my phone is all at once my alarm clock, calendar and map. Without it, I would be a complete mess—I wouldn’t be able to wake up for classes, keep up with due dates and events or even navigate the city. And this is coming from someone with a phone that’s only one step up from those huge, no flip devices of the ’90s. We have become a society so immersed in technology that it is not only a part of our lives but what defines each day.

Beyond this is the question of why texting is so appealing to us.

John Palfrey, author of “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of the Digital Natives,” talks about the lure of texting coming from the idea that the youth can have their own language, or “a space of their own.” But I don’t think that the reason behind this is as complicated as Palfrey makes it out to be.

I believe that our love of texting comes from a much simpler idea—it’s quick and easy and straight to the point. Rushing between classes, or even while immersed in my novel-length notes, I can shoot my parents a text to let them know I’m still alive or finalize dinner plans with friends. You can say a lot more in considerably less time than it takes to have an actual conversation.

In a way, texting does undermine communication—it is after all a superficial form of talking. Our generation didn’t have phones when we were seven or eight, so for the most part, we’re able to carry meaningful conversations—but the kids of today are being more and more fully absorbed in various technologies, raising the question of whether or not they will be able to talk face to face (and not just on Skype!). But our obsession isn’t just limited to texting.

Project Glass, a project still under development Google, is essentially augmented reality glasses with a small computer monitor aimed at the eye of their wearer. In addition to all the “basic” features we’ve grown used to, they pick up on others in your vicinity and can tell you their exact location—as well as what their interests are (which in itself seems to be a glorified form of stalking). You don’t even have to pay attention to the world around you with Project Glass—they tell you where you are, and when to avoid any impending brick walls you’re in danger of walking into. It is a more virtual-reality expansion of the app Google Goggles.

I’m a fan of texting, big screen TVs, the Internet and other gems technology offers us, but there’s a point where I have to draw the line. Technology is a huge part of our lives and we wouldn’t be able to function without it, but we need to be aware of the “real world,” and something like Google Goggles or Project Glass, and even texting, severely limits that ability. Yes, they are amazing feats in technological innovation—but it just proves that we are in fact becoming too digitized. The Internet is not a real place, and it’s important to live within the real, tangible world.