Lifestyle

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Womanity: Technology's a positive thing - not the enemy

Technology isn't the enemy... and virals that slate it really get my goat.

High numbers of youngsters took gadgets such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to bed with them, the study said
High numbers of youngsters took gadgets such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to bed with them, the study said

Last week a video entitled 'Look Up' went viral. You probably saw it on your Facebook page, possibly linking to a blog post titled: 'This Is A Video EVERYONE Needs To See. For The First Time In My Life, I'm Speechless'. Quite a headline, eh? What could a video EVERYONE needs to see possibly include? Instructions on how to save a life? The secret to eternal youth? A guide to stopping your partner from leaving hair clips all over the house?

Well, as you know if you've seen it, the video is in fact a piece of spoken word about technology, and how it's ruining everything. It's by a guy named Gary Turk, and I hate it. Sorry friends who shared it on Facebook, but I do.

I hate it because it's cheesy, I hate it because it's not particularly good spoken word, and I hate it because the scenarios are ludicrous. I shouted at the screen while watching Gary suggest that technology is stopping us from talking to strangers at bus stops and staying up all night with crying babies.

Let's be real about this. No one ever wanted to make small talk with strangers at the bus stop. Yes, you'd oblige for the sake of the kindly older lady, but generally if someone started a conversation you'd nod politely along while your internal monologue screamed: "How do I stop this?! How do I get away? Will I throw myself in front of that car? How soon is too soon to pretend I'm at the wrong bus stop?"

And, sorry Gary, but if you find me a smartphone that will eradicate sleepless nights with screaming babies then I'll take it. I have enough red-eyed friends tearfully making it through the initial steps of parenthood to know that that's not exactly the best bit.

The real issue, however, is that it oversimplifies things. Its message is that technology is destroying our lives, and frankly I don't think that's true. I joined Twitter almost six years ago, and to be honest, I didn't get it at all. My first tweet was a misplaced Facebook status: " ... is trying to get the hang of this thing." (So witty! So clever!) I didn't use it much initially, but then I was made redundant. It hit me hard, and like many people I sunk into an intense malaise, lying around in bed all day, applying for jobs hopelessly, knowing that it was unlikely that I'd even get a response, let alone an interview. I was alone and lonely, by my own doing. I avoided making plans with people, and closed my bedroom door at the end of the day to avoid the friends I lived with. Why? Because I really felt like I had nothing to offer. Nothing at all.

It was around this time I started properly getting involved on Twitter. I had loads of time to keep an eye on it, and it allowed me to feel connected with the real world without anyone ever knowing that I'd been wearing the same pyjamas for four days. At a time when I didn't have very much confidence in terms of actual social interactions (we really need to stop using 'What do you do?' as a go-to question), I could interact with people working in the industries I wanted to be in. I could chat to people I admired, and eventually ask advice. It might sound silly, but using Twitter brought me out of myself and reminded me that I had something to say. It also introduced me to a large network of women like me. It made me feel less alone. What could be more social than that? Well, real-life interactions are probably more social than that, so you'll be happy to hear that I've met and made lots of friends through the social network. In fact, were it not for Twitter, I probably wouldn't be writing this column.

As for the other options technology has presented us with, staying in contact with friends abroad has never been easier or cheaper. Connecting with people you might otherwise have lost is facilitated by multiple platforms (that one's a bit of a double-edged sword, I'll admit). And where would we be without photographs of other people's dinners? What would we salivate over?

Is there a risk of us disconnecting as a result of technology? Yes. There's no denying that. Just this past weekend I confronted a friend about "Do you have wi-fi?" being the first question he asked every time we went anywhere while abroad. I myself have been accused of spending too much time on my phone and not paying attention to what's going on.

My point is that it's not all bad. Social media can be social. Technology can and does improve lives. It's all about balance, friends. And at the end of the day, if everyone "looks up", how will they watch and share Gary Turk's video?

Catch Louise on 2fm Sunday - Thursday from 8pm

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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