Are We Too Connected? 

​You descend the steps of the metro station, dodging fellow commuters to reach turnstiles that grant access to the platform. As you make your way to the spot where you need to wait for the train, you spy countless people connected to technology by their usual gaze and folded neck, the glow of screens reflected on their faces, the tapping and shaking of their wrists to glean the time and weather. Our world has invariably changed in less time than it took for Google to become a verb. All this new technology and what have we gained? We have access to a wealth of knowledge, but do we really know any more? Our pursuits of the tangible have waned, replaced with consumption of the virtual. I used to count the ratio of iPhones to Androids flaunted by their owners in a given place, but now such a task is daunting, and it’s much simpler to only count the people abstaining from the use of a smart device. 
We seek to automate our homes and connect the facets of our digital lives from wrist watches and wearables to virtual and augmented reality spectacles. It dominates us. Mundane tasks like typing is no more as we make the shift to speak it or gesture it. Suddenly UPS and FedEx seem obsolete–they were replaced by drone delivery services from Amazon. We’re more angered at the time it takes Netflix or our phones to start than the delay between getting a text message, yet another soon-to-be-obsolete reference to the past. So much has changed, but has it been for the better, the worse, or is it just different?
For me, the jarring affect of seeing so many heads planted in the downward stare has prompted me to look inwardly. Are we addicted, am I addicted to these devices? This examination of my reliance on tech has enabled me to take a step back to analyze the pros and cons with the myriad of services and networks in which we subscribe. As I Swype this article from my Nexus 5 smartphone and save it to the cloud via Google keep, I immediately acknowledge certain benefits. 
One can now monitor their pets, their children, their home, and soon enough each other, all from within a device, which most themselves carry. There’s a line in there somewhere that we haven’t yet crossed, but I believe we’re toeing the line. The line between freedom, privacy and omnipotence is extremely blurred.
But still, there are those holdouts, relics from the previous era, that clench to their books and their newspapers, their conversations, and their beloved analog everything. I believe I’m not so far from that age myself. I come from a time where answering machines, actual devices that automatically answered calls (mostly over landlines, what?) and left messages from callers, were new; almost immediately made into obsolete technology. I nearly forgot they were most certainly never called voicemails. I believe at most they were referred to as voice messages or just messages. Being of this age where the rise of the internet has ushered in waves of new technologies, smartphones included, I also have a great deal of appreciation for those relics, now anachronistic of their cause. It provides a certain nostalgia. 
Recently I began using a time monitoring app called quality time. This app sits in the background and quietly monitors your device usage; that is, it tracks how long you use each application. It also tracks how many times you unlock your device, whether to check the time, a text, or whatever notification it is that prompted you to swipe or enter you pass code, or face unlock, or nfc unlock, or biometric unlock. The app has allowed me to take a granular look at what applications I use, how frequently, and how long. 
[Picture of app screenshot]
I’m not sure if it was my subconscious, but after seeing the time I was spending on such banal activities, it appears to have altered my phone usage habits. I rationalized the use of certain apps or activities and disavowed others. The time spent on applications dramatically changed. In fact it became more a state of flux from one set of priorities to the next.
[Another picture showing changes]
Applications such as these are nice to allow for self-auditing, but it doesn’t solve any problems as it merely displays usage timing. The greater issue is technology’s pervasiveness in our current world, whether it is an issue at all. 
One of the recent benefits of technology’s growing reach include surveillance, accountability, connectivity, precision, and general omnipotence. We see cameras everywhere, not only attached to buildings and cars and helmets but or portable devices also allow recording at anytime. Whether you are a proponent of mass surveillance or not, it has in recent days exposed misbehaving police, caught criminals in the act, monitored our enemies and neighbors, and enabled us to spy on our own babies, nannies, and friends. It also has the inevitable drawback of privacy loss, which is one of the key targets exposed by the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Not only do we have to worry about our own government removing our liberties into their own, but we have to deal with hackers and compromised security, claims of airplanes and space stations being breached. 
The bigger question is, how do we deal with all this new tech? How does it make us feel, and how do we move forward? I imagine it goes a lot like how the folks that found or fashioned a tool for the first time, or like those who discovered the wheel, the car, the airplane. Planes and ships changed warfare, a staple of human domination, like computers, hacking, and unmanned aerial systems will invariably shape our immediate future. The best thing we can do is continually adjust perception, constantly shape its use, and temper the ubiquity. Are you neophobic or are you neophylic.

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