Plugged vs. Unplugged

I was born in Australia in 1990, which totes makes me a 90s bitch a la Icona Pop. It also means I grew up with VHS and cassette tapes. I also had a discman. Our first family computer ran DOS and our first printer was black and white only. My first mobile phone was a good old Nokia 3315 that I shared with my sister. Fast-forward to today and I’m using multiple pieces of advanced technology every single day of my life. I’m typing this on an ultrabook, there’s an iPad over there, a smart phone right next to me (that I do not share with my sister but that also lacks Snake). The alarming ease with which technology has grown to be a central component of our everyday lives makes me ponder this question – to plug or to unplug? The problem is, like most things in life, actually not that simple. There are a whole bunch of positives and negatives that should be considered and…oh boy. I can sense it. I’m gonna have to make a pro and con list. It’s the only way, people.

PROS

  • Information! This morning I watched a Crash Course video on the female reproductive system, just cause. Of course, if you don’t have a strong desire to learn more about how ovulation works, don’t worry, there is guaranteed to be something else on the internet that interests you. I was going to type “there is bound to be something” but replaced it with guaranteed because there is seriously every single thing on the internet now and if you aren’t interested in one of those things then maybe you should see a doctor about that. Seriously, you can learn how to propagate succulents, what the Black Death was all about, how to sail a boat, and who won the latest season of the Bachelor (if you really want to).
  • Education! Similar to information, but in a more formal sense. Part of my job as a university teacher involves teaching students that are entirely online. They might be inter-state or even international. Even the local on-campus students need access to the website to download and interact with the learning resources. Instead of having to come on campus for every single class, students can learn from home at a time that suits them. Perhaps they have a young family that makes it difficult to be away from home or perhaps they are the sole income earner and only have small windows of time in which they can fit in their study. Access to education has become increasingly flexible due to advances in technology.
  • Friendz! I don’t have a huge groups of friends. I’m quite picky about who I let into my inner circle (on Wednesdays we wear pink) and if you’d asked me a year ago if I ever thought I’d be friends with someone who lives in China and someone who lives in New Zealand (as some COMPLETELY RANDOM EXAMPLES), I would have scoffed and said “No way! How could that possibly happen?” But now I know – through the power of the Interwebz, young Jacquie, the power of the Interwebz. I now collaborate on a weekly project with Isabel from Nanjing Nian and talk almost daily with Laura from The Lovely Jumble. I’ve also met (as in, actually met in person!) some other truly wonderful people living in Australia through an online blogging course and been inspired, encouraged, and supported by them. Technology has enabled me to connect with like-minded people from across the globe and that is nothing short of incredible.
  • Oysters! By that I mean, the world is your oyster with the help of technology. The world has become smaller, which is generally considered a negative thing, perhaps because people presume it means there is less to know and less to discover. I don’t think that could be further from the truth. My interpretation of it is that I didn’t have to sail for two months to get from the UK to Australia like my grandparents did. I took a 23-hour flight. The distance between countries is the same but also very different now. Technology has opened up so many doors and raised infinite questions – there is still so much that we do not know or understand and that is exciting!

CONS

  • Impatience! I recently bought a new laptop, figuring a trade-off of big-ass storage for slower processing speed would be okay. How wrong I was. I didn’t realise how much I had grown accustomed to the lightning fast speed of my ultrabook’s solid state drive. I liked the way it turned on in less than 5 seconds (no, I’m not kidding). I liked the way it didn’t throw a hissy fit when I wanted to run three programs at once. After a HUGE inner debate (including reminding myself of this Gilmore Girls clip and half-heartedly trying to convince myself that I can just make a cup of tea every time I waited for my laptop to turn on) I had to do a take backsies with my mum (who didn’t mind at all. She literally just uses it for Google and Mahjong Tiles. Bless.) I was inordinately happier once I was using my ultrabook again and that’s a teensy bit sad, don’t you think? Technology has definitely warped my sense of patience.
  • Square eyes! Okay, so, not really. But my eyes have actually become “stressed” (my optometrist’s words) from looking at a computer screen at the same distance every day for many years. Don’t get me wrong, I love my glasses for the air of perceived intelligence they give, but it’s kinda not great to think that my eyes are struggling because of a basic part of technology.

Although it might seem like I have a clear leaning through looking at my lists, neither of them are exhaustive by any means. I’ve just written about what I’ve noticed has personally impacted me the most. Perhaps your lists might be different? But back to the question – do I prefer to be plugged in or unplugged?

Taco Girl

I think I might be a hybrid, a fence-sitter. Yes, I use technology regularly and yes, a lot of integral parts of my life are made easier by it. As a PhD student and a university lecturer, it’s almost impossible to not have technology weasel its way into your everyday life; statistical analyses, accessing journal articles, running classes for off-campus students, disseminating learning resources – all done with the help of technology. But there are times where I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t want to look at a screen. I don’t want things BING!-ing at me all the live long day. I want to experience the world around me without feeling like I should be constantly Instagramming it. Sometimes it is nice to take a step back. Literally. Step away from the computer. I repeat, step away from the computer. Put your phone down. Shut off your iPad. Everything’s got an off switch – just turn it off. It’s that easy and that hard.

What are your thoughts on our use of technology? Yay/nay/bit of both like me?

I wrote this post as a complement to Erin’s (from Design for Mankind) post on the matter. There is a bunch of the wildly talented women I mentioned before writing about it as well, including Pip Lincolne, so be sure to head over to her blog and check out the other links at the bottom.

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Compulsory Strongly recommended viewing: Dylan Moran’s perspective on technology and its uses.

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Jacquie is a 20-something maker and writer from Melbourne. She enjoys eating virtually anything that is labelled salted caramel and, contrary to popular belief, has forgotten how to ride a bike. She feels ambivalent about writing in the third person but thought it might be fun. It was.

8 comments

  1. Carolyn

    First thing, I’m feeling really old that you are born in the same decade as my kids. Different ends, admittedly, but you’re all still children of the 90s. I’ll take a bit of plugged and unplugged. The access to information is wonderful, the ability to connect with like minds is enriching, especially when that can translate to,actual real life meetings. But I agree that we need to step back at times, get a bit of fresh air and have some tactile experiences.

    Reply

    1. birdandfox

      Ahaha sorry? 😛

      Very good points, Carolyn. Fresh air and experiencing stuff for real, not virtually, is a good way to switch things up and take a break from the many screens that surround us.

      Reply

  2. Isabel

    I’m a yay/nay too, for pretty much the same reasons you’ve outlined here. Yay for new online friends! Nay to square eyes and Instagramming your entire life. I love the web, I wouldn’t be without it, but I love to switch off too. x

    Reply

    1. birdandfox

      Indeed! Bit of both worlds is good, me thinks. Thanks Isabel 😀 xx

      Reply

  3. Emily

    I’m chuckling after reading Carolyn’s comment because that’s what I was going to say. I feel old, I found myself thinking gosh I didn’t get a phone till I was in my twenties, our first computer was a Vic 64 of something like that and we thought we were pretty cool because our dad was a computer programmer! I can’t imagine life unplugged anymore and there are so many benefits for me including learning and meeting like minded people. I am aware though that I can too easily get lost in my phone and be oblivious to my surroundings …OOPS. I guess it all comes down to finding balance, like most things. Yes I love it and love to switch off too.

    Reply

    1. birdandfox

      Hehe I like hearing about everyone’s different experiences. So interesting!

      I think you’re exactly right – it’s all about the balance. And that’s tricky to find and is probably different for everyone. Taking a day or two off seems to work for me. In fact, that’s what I try to use my weekends for! Thanks for commenting, Emily 😀 x

      Reply

  4. Robyna

    I am an eighties kid, but identify with the childhood full of new fangled toys (that now seem ridiculously large mostly). I do think it’s all about balance.

    Reply

    1. birdandfox

      Yes, it’s funny, isn’t it, Robyna? At the time they’re the coolest thing ever and only a short while later (10-15 years really is not that long in the grand scheme of things which is a bit weird to think about in itself!) they’re well and truly superceded. Balance is key, I agree! Thanks for your comment, Robyna 🙂

      Reply

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