I am writing this post on my birthday. In the last 24 hours I have received many birthday messages, from home and abroad. And not all of them were from people. I have received birthday wishes from a variety of different apps, businesses, and other media sources. Even my Google homepage is decked out with birthday cakes and candles. My bank has been wishing me a “Happy Birthday Month” every time I used the ATM since September 1st. This is a fairly recent phenomenon. And I think I might love it. For me, these small gestures that require relatively simple programming absolutely help make my day. Mission complete, app manufacturers, nice job.
As you can probably tell, I am a bona fide technophobe. I like to think that I’m pretty well informed when it comes to technology, and I can function well enough to run the basics for things like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and the like. I get myself to a stage where I feel like I am Ireland’s answer to Bill Gates. Help a few people set up their iPhones, run an update on my PC, that sort of thing. Then I come across someone who is actually tech-savvy, and my mind is blown. The true extent of what technology can do - in business, healthcare and social realms - is staggering. And we are lucky enough to be living at a time where progress is happening at an astronomical rate. We have gone from having computers that required a whole room to store, to having exponentially more processing power at a mere fraction of the size. And we did this in the space of twenty years. When you really think about it, it is mind-blowing.
Technology has changed and shaped how we live our lives now. A good working example of this is the memory of road trips from my childhood, listening to the same CD over and over again, with nothing but a book and a perpetual game of “I Spy” run by emotionally-weary parents for our amusement. Fast-forward to today, it’s simply a matter of making sure that your tablet is charged with an adequate amount of gaming apps, and you have amused children for hours. Kids today will never understand the real joy that is punching your sibling and screaming “NO PUNCH BACKS” every time you see a yellow car out the window. Poor, deprived souls. Though this is a minor example of the use of the huge potential that these gadgets contain, it is an everyday situation that has been changed immensely over a short period of time due to huge steps in the evolution of technology.
As I travel across the globe, homesickness is a risk I run. However, with services such as Skype and FaceTime I can almost entirely negate that. As well as reassuring my worried mother that I am, in fact, alive and well. Gone are the days where the only contact that emigrants had with home would be a weekly phone call at a preordained time. Usually off a pay phone. And god help you if the person you were calling wasn’t by the phone. No conversation until the next week’s attempt. This is why a lot of emigrants eventually lost touch with their friends and family. Now, on a twice weekly basis (more often if any Minor Life Crises occur), I get to see and talk to my parents. We can communicate over the internet to arrange call times, send pictures and generally just keep in touch with each other. Only now am I starting to get a little homesick, it’s been almost a full year that I have been away with no family or friends. If FaceTime wasn’t a factor, then I definitely wouldn’t have lasted this long.
However, as much as technology does have many and multiple benefits, there are downsides to everything. An increase in social media use from a young age has led to many young people finding communication in person very difficult. Social media has become more about communicating AT other people than communicating WITH other people. Self-esteem issues are on the rise due to the competition to portray a life that “Keeps up with the Kardashians”. The worst thing that has come out of technology, as far as I am concerned, is cyber-bullying. With the advent of the internet, people are always “on”. In previous generations, bullying would occur in school or the workplace, and then people could leave the environment and get a break. However, Facebook, Twitter, and related sites mean that the victim is always accessible to the bullies. Add to this the fact that these sites are also available as apps for your smart phone. It means that the instigators are literally following the victims around, in their pockets. This has led to a phenomenal increase in depression, anxiety and, in recent years, suicides are on the increase as a direct result of cyber bullying.
As with all great progress, these negatives are to be expected. Governments are making moves to regulate and prosecute those who antagonize others to combat cyber bullying. What cannot be overlooked is the immense good that the massive advances in technology are doing for us all every day. So, while I can’t perform keyhole surgery assisted by a robot, nor am I ever going to go to space in a state-of-the-art shuttle, I am more than happy to use the technology that has been made available for my own minor enjoyment. In the meantime, I do believe that I have received a message from the Team who runs the app Snapchat providing even more birthday tidings. This is the best birthday ever.
[Image Credit: Wilfred Iven / StockSnap]
Posted on September 24, 2015 in Lady’s Gadgets by Hannah Callaghan