– Staff Opinion –
PHOTO: “Grace’s Place” is a museum of computers and technology at UMSL. Photo for The Current ©

By Michael Holmes, Staff Writer for The Current

I believe that our society, myself included, relies too heavily on technology. Often times I feel naked if I leave the house without my cell phone, iPad, or laptop. We live in an age of technology in which all devices must be fully charged and present at all times to effectively complete our daily tasks. Due to technology being so widely utilized and accepted as the new normal, the standards of communication are much different. For instance, people now expect to maintain a constant connection to their friends, loved ones, employers, and even colleagues. I must always be certain that my cell phone is charged so that if any calls were to come through, I will be able to take them. I must be diligent about checking my email several times a day so that I don’t miss out on potential career opportunities or changes to the current day’s schedule.

It is now socially acceptable to verbally reprimand others for their lack of engagement with technology. This behavior reinforces “Technological Darwinism” as a common practice. Technological Darwinism applies to societies in which only the individuals that remain current on technological advancements and eliminations shall survive. Society has begun to socially and professionally isolate members of our community that reject the notion that professionals must remain abreast of new technological changes, and adhere to inevitable societal norm shifts. I’ve witnessed instructors chastising other faculty members for not utilizing MyGateway to its fullest capabilities, or those that take a respectable 24 hours to respond to email correspondence.

Collectively we’ve created a culture that is directly influenced and expanded by the growth of technology. Therefore when technology fails us, as it often does, it’s difficult for many not to panic as a result. For instance, online coursework has encouraged students to make progress in their programs without having to be on campus. Online courses have allowed me the freedom to work full-time jobs and take on other commitments that wouldn’t have been possible without technology. I believe that this is the point in which we allow convenience to trump the importance of the “college experience.”

So while I don’t think that we can no longer be productive without the luxuries of technology, the alternative resources that can be utilized aren’t taught as they should. Often times instructors will encourage e-books to be used instead of traditional textbooks. Instructors will require work that can only be completed with the assistance of a computer and the internet. Our reliance on technology has permanently altered our skill set. Will the new generation of children know how to pick up a phone book and find a number? Will they know how to search a dictionary for the meaning of word? Will the concept of “online bill payment” be the only way young adults know how to pay a utility bill? Would we be able to follow a paper map in order to find directions? Are these resources even available?

While marketing companies would like for its consumers to believe that technology propels our mental capabilities so that we can live more effective lives, I personally believe that the encouraged commitment to new technology further indulges the glutton for luxury assumed to be inside of us all. What do you think?

© The Current 2014