Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tech Dependence

Last week I tried to bring up an important email on my phone only to find that I couldn’t log into my email. My G-mail account had been hacked recently, forcing me to change my password quickly and without putting much thought into it. I had been using my old password for almost nine years now, a terrible habit, but I had grown comfortable with its familiarity. Now I stood outside my meeting, unable to access this important email, because I was unable to remember my new password.

Sure, I had written it down, but the sticky note on the bottom of my desk was no good to me, as I stood outside the conference, furiously typing in possible combinations of numbers and letters in a desperate attempt to break into my own account. I ended up going into the meeting without the numbers I wanted off my phone, and surprisingly enough the world didn’t end. The situation did get me thinking, however, about how dependent I had become on my computer and phone remembering things for me. I can’t even imagine the kind of wreck I would be if I were to lose my phone or computer and the data on them for good.

As the conveniences of modern technology have grown, my powers as a mental storage machine have begun to regress. Back in middle school, I had many phone numbers of friends and family memorized. Now I sometimes stumble when reciting my own phone number. Why waste brainpower remembering anything these days? Our cellphones save hundreds of contacts and our computers can automatically fill out our log-ins and passwords for us. This system of entering all my information at once and then forgetting about it has been very convenient up until now.

Last week's email debacle opened my eyes to just how easy it would be for me to lose years of collected data. With all the advancements in collecting, storing, and sharing information, how much of this data is going into our long-term memory and not just a bookmark folder on our desktop?

For me, it appears that most of what I think I know is reliant on a fully functioning phone or computer. Often, I find myself saving online news articles to read at a later date, only to delete them the next time I clean out my bookmark folder, the articles still unread. Technology has made it so easy to find and store information that I fear we spend more time searching than we do absorbing what we find.

Everyday we are bombarded with emails, text messages, conversations, commercials, television shows, new acquaintances, and news stories. All this information is coming at us in a constant torrent throughout the day, and we are expected to take it all, process it, store what we find important, and quickly move on to the next item of business. We have become so greedy by the stimulation of new information that we now even create and horde daily happenings on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. It is no wonder I can’t remember a password I made up with only a day ago; it is buried under a pile of never ending information. I have grown too accustomed to having all this information and technology saved for me, data that I can lose with a simple hard drive crash or stolen phone. How easy it would be for me to lose all my music, emails, contacts, bookmarks, and passwords in an instant. Yes, I have everything saved on a back up drive, and cloud sharing systems are making this less of an issue, but just the thought of all the reliance I have put into technology is a little frightening. My inability to access my email, it seems, has shaken me awake from this digital dream, opened my eyes to just how much I could lose if something happened to my computer or phone.

Our ability to find and share information will only continue to improve in the years to come. Unfortunately, the unaltered human system cannot hope to contain all the data that we are able to access. It's important for us to develop ways to filter the constant stream of garbage that is thrown at us each and every day, storing it not only in our electronic devices, but also in our memory. I am not saying down with the machines, throw down your web-enabled devices, and go back to living in the woods; I just think it is a good idea for us all to slow down once in a while from our constant hording of information and actually absorb some knowledge.

By: Embra King

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