Saturday, January 25, 2014

"This is why we have smartphones"

I often find myself thinking about the world without the technology we have today.  How would we accomplish simple tasks?

I'm going to start this post off with three short stories:

1. Recently I had a conversation with my dad about applying for college.  As many people know, I was able to apply for graduate school from my house in Uganda using the internet, but I was wondering how a person in, say, the 1960's in the United States would have gone about a similar task.  The answer is I have no idea.  Even now, I'm still not sure.  I wouldn't even know how to get information about different universities without the internet.

2. In a different conversation with my dad on another occasion, he was telling me how, on that particular day, my grandmom actually used a phone book (as in the yellow pages) to get a phone number for somewhere.  My response was "do they still send out phone books?"  I don't even remember the last time I saw one and it was probably even longer than that since I've used one.

3. Several months ago I was going out to breakfast with friends to a place that wasn't all that close to where any of us lived.  And one of my friends who was driving there had printed out directions from Map Quest.  I found this particularly amusing and kind of scoffed at her saying "1990 called and they want their directions back."  Now I was just being cynical and having a good laugh, but the truth of the matter is that most people haven't used such "old" technology in years.  And when I say old, it really isn't even that old, but it is still outdated. (In fact, Map Quest directions were not a technology from 1990.  I believe it was very popular in the late 90's/early 2000's.)

So those are my three stories to try and paint a picture for you of what I'm really talking about.  Despite having lived the first several years of my life without most of the technology that I use on a daily basis today, I was too young to really remember how certain things were done.

I wake up in the morning and before I even get out of bed, I check my email and Facebook on my phone.  Sometimes (depending on how much time I have and whether I have to be at work that day) I may even read the news on my phone before I even get out of bed.  As I'm getting ready for work I use my Weather Channel app to see how cold it is and prepare myself accordingly.  I also use an app on my phone throughout the day to track how many calories I've eaten in order to control my diet and eat healthier.

Once I leave my apartment, I walk to the metro and while on the metro, I may catch up on news and email, reading articles and emails that I may not have had time to read earlier or that were not there earlier.  I enjoy almost instant gratification when it comes to my inbox.

When I get to work, I sit down at my desk, log in to my computer, and again check my email.  However this time it is my work email and my personal email.  I log into Facebook and I also bring up my Google Calendar to remind me of any events I have that day or in the next few days.  I also have an app for my calendar on my phone, in case someone needs to make an appointment with me and I don't want to pull out my computer (which I probably have on me at any given time) to check my schedule.

Throughout the day I may use the internet to do research for a project I'm working on for work, I use my phone to text friends sometimes to make plans or just to pass on some sort of amusing information, and I continue to use both my personal email and my work email to communicate with my supervisor, my co-workers, my classmates, my professors, other people at the university, and my family and friends (including those who live in DC, Philly, and anywhere else in the country or the world).  In fact, I often find that in the office, people are more likely to email you than to get up and walk ten feet to talk to you in person.

Upon leaving work, I walk back to the metro and while on the metro I do the same as I did in the morning catching up on news and emails.  I often have class at night or I have to go to the University for some other reason.  In fact, all my appointments and meetings are made via email and occasionally text message.  Once I get to class I pull out my computer to take notes and sometimes I may even check my email and my Facebook as well.  While in class I may need to use the internet to access Blackboard to get some of my materials for class, such as lecture slides.  I always find myself somewhat perturbed when a professor asks the class to take out a piece of paper that he or she may want handed in.  On many occasions, I've turned to the person sitting next to me to ask for a piece of paper.  I don't carry around paper.  What would I use it for?  It's just extra weight in my bag that I don't need.  Luckily, I do carry a few pens in my bag, so I don't have to borrow one of them as well.

When class is over, I usually check my phone for text messages and phone calls, which are often waiting for me.  Once I get home, I may sit down in front of my computer and watch Netflix for a bit before going to sleep.  In fact, I usually watch Netflix on one computer, while surfing the internet and checking email on my other computer.  And as I lie in bed, I am usually still checking to see if I have any new emails or updates on my Facebook via my phone.

Now can you imagine this day without technology?  Some of these things that I use on a daily basis are relatively new even to me.  I just got an iPhone (smartphone) upon returning to the U.S. after Peace Corps.  Before I left for Uganda, I had a simple phone that didn't do much more than text.  But something, such as the internet in a more general sense, is something that I only have a vague recollection of living without.

Sometimes I think all of this technology is either a reason for or a by-product of our busy lives.  For example, I find that my time on the metro every day is wasted time...unless I find a way to make it productive by checking my email.  I often feel every second of my day is accounted for and many of these technologies help me do that.  Now I don't know if this is a good thing or not, but I do find myself to be rather productive when I need to be.

As you can see from my busy schedule, I don't actually mention making any phone calls.  I may find myself checking my phone for any missed calls, but the fact of the matter is that I don't talk on the phone with most people I know.  I am usually emailing them or texting them.  It is much faster and with my busy life, I often don't have the time to go through the formalities of a phone call.  I may need an answer to a simple question, but if I call someone to answer it, there is usually much more that we converse abount, taking up too much time.  There are however a few people that I talk to on the phone, but most of them it is not on a regular basis.  I have friends who I may have a lengthy phone call with every few months because we haven't seen each other recently and we need to catch up.  But other than these people I rarely see, phone calls don't make much sense to me anymore.  I think eventually even phone calls will become somewhat obsolete.  It is just a matter of time.

And finally, I'm going to leave you with this short video about how people reacted when Gmail briefly went down yesterday.  Oh, what the world can't live without!


Note: If anyone is curious as to why the title of this post is in quotes, it is because, as I reach for my iPhone, this is something I often find myself saying if someone ask me a question.

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