There is no doubt that the internet and digital devices have revolutionized our society to the point that we now, in the developed world at least, find it inconceivable to exist without it.
I guess there are arguments for and against whether or not this is a good thing for our evolution as a species and our quality of life, but I think we are beyond the point of argument, to be honest.
Deep down I would like to believe that I could do without possessions such as my laptop, smart phone and tablet, that I am not a slave to the machines I use so freely, and am in charge of my own destiny. I would like to believe it, but it isn’t true.
Do I feel guilty? Do I feel that I have lost something by being so reliant on information technology, that I break out in a cold sweat whenever I see the dreaded “no network available” icon flash on my phone? That choices of where to eat and stay abroad are so often determined by not only the availability, but the quality of wifi?
No bars, the stuff of nightmares.
The answer is no. No guilt, remorse, no yearning for a “simpler time”. And when I think about this, I am just a little surprised at myself, because I always thought, or at least liked to think, that I wanted to remain somewhat disconnected from technology.
I never wanted to be ruled by it, dependent on it, a slave to it. Use it, yes, but not be one of THOSE people who just latch on to every piece of new technology without thought or, seemingly, choice and forget they are just machines, tools, not items of fashion or status symbols.
I want to have more substance than that, be a deeper person, make informed choices and be in control of my own destiny.
I wouldn’t class myself as one of the techno-geeks. My wife, god bless her, plays that role well enough for both of us. I can turn on the Apple TV and cue up whatever we are going to watch but if something goes wrong, it’s over to you, love. My trouble-shooting knowledge extends to turning it off and on again.
But I carry my smart phone wherever I go and am always checking, updating, reading, informing and being informed, be entertained and (hopefully) entertaining. Am I a slave to it in the sense that I couldn’t do without it? Well…
My wife and I have been planning the trip we are now on for some time. Her best friend had decided to get married in Thailand, so we decided that we would attend the wedding but also see some other parts of Asia while we were at it.
So after we had made a list of some of the places we wanted to see, we consulted with our travel agent. Google.
We consulted maps, read reviews, booked the flights, hotels, searched out interesting activities, restaurants and anything else we needed to know, or thought we needed to know. We did all this in our lounge room after dinner while watching TV (yes, we can multi-task).
We then thought it best to see an actual travel agent to make sure we were approaching it correctly. What a waste of time that was. Not only did it take them about two weeks to get back to us, the prices were double what we could book ourselves and the route they had planned for us was ridiculously circuitous, with about twice the time in the air as was actually necessary to get where we wanted to go.
So we settled on Malaysia first, then over to Thailand, back to Malaysia for another night and Bali on the way home (our favourite and most frequented overseas destination – even if the rest of the trip turned out to be a disaster, we knew we could end it with a good time in the place we love).
We booked AirAsia for the flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur and chose Premium Economy as it is a longer flight than what we are used to. The flight was departing at 6:30am, so we thought it might be nice to have a flatbed and catch up on the sleep we inevitably knew we would lose in preparation for the trip. We also thought it would be a good test for potentially longer trips on the same airline.
You don’t find out until just before you leave if your request for Premium has gone through due to availability (they refund your money if not). The whoops of excitement from my wife when she got the confirmation email were something to behold.
So in the days leading up to our departure, what was the most important task I had to make the trip a good one? What did I absolutely HAVE to do to ensure everything would be ok? Get immunized, contact my bank, get travel insurance, secure my house?
Load and prepare my phone, laptop, SD card cards and other digital paraphernalia, of course.
I spent ages deciding what music, movies and TV shows to take. It was an agonizing decision, I couldn’t take everything. How could I know in advance what I would feel like watching/listening to on the plane? I bought an extra SD card so the choice wasn’t so hard.
It was while I was doing this that I realized how normal this now is to me, how essential it is to have these things working in the way I have become accustomed to them working. I’ve only had a smart phone now for a little over a year, and a laptop for not that much longer.
The prospect of them not working is terrifying. Ask my wife.
I nearly ruined our entire trip his morning by turning on iTunes while her devices were syncing. Apparently this is bad, as she informed me in no uncertain terms. Her entire catalogue of music and movies could have been lost, gone, nothing left for the entire trip.
I was shocked and felt instant remorse. Everything erased, the stuff of nightmares.
Luckily I am not as stupid as I appear to be, or at least not as efficient in my destruction of her data. She managed to salvage everything and our marriage was saved.
If it all went away, I’m not sure what I would do. It would take a re-adjustment in both thought and behavior, no doubt.
Human beings are adaptable creatures, as the speed to which we have adapted to using such technology has shown. Adapting back to life without it is possible, of course it is. We would go on, adjust, evolve.
But I hope with every fiber of my being that it never happens.