Op-Ed

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Technology might be ruining us

Martina Gannon | Fulcrum Contributor

DEAR STUDENTS,

I recently found myself experiencing something I believe every student will go through: a moment of questioning in the middle of a lecture. There I was, in an auditorium, listening to the professor talk about the infallible power of technology, media, and materialism, when my thoughts drifted off. When I snapped back to reality, I was met with the sound of hundreds of keyboard keys being furiously tapped. It made me feel so tiny, lost in a vast sea of clicking.

Some students in my class were taking notes, but most were online—that cyberspace that fixates us all, that global information dispenser that is the Internet. It got me thinking about the future of a world dominated by social networking, where news becomes old almost immediately after it happens—where people are tied to their computers and smartphones.

Just how much of our identity are we losing in all the hours we spend online? Could that time not be better spent in the real world discovering firsthand what makes us who we are?

Back home in Ireland, I heard so many people say in awe, “You can get anything online these days.”

Yet there are some needs that hours, even days, on the Internet could never satisfy. The Internet can’t secure you unconditional love, the perfect kiss, or a friend that will fight anything or anyone for you.

What it can do is create a mountain of debt from online buying. It is also a dangerous trigger for eating disorders, with sites that promote an unhealthy body image and provide tips on hiding anorexia and bulimia. Not to mention the numerous other addictions the Internet caters to, like pornography, gambling, and gaming.

The Web is an infinite source of distraction, and I would confidently bet it is also a huge thief of study time. I’ve stopped counting the number of times I have sat behind students in lectures and watched them creep Facebook, shop online, and waste time in general. Why bother coming to the lecture at all?

In his book Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom encapsulates the real worth of materialism and online obsession with the words, “We can take nothing with us.”

What use is an iPad when you’re six feet under? What’s the better use of an hour, having a laugh with a friend or straining your eyes surfing useless websites? No one is going to befriend you or fall in love with you for your playlist or your cool apps, just like they won’t dump you if you don’t have those things.

The Internet could crash and burn worldwide at any moment. Who would you be without it? What are your goals and your interests? What things in life do you like—and I’m not talking about that little button on Facebook.

Try treasuring the natural things that matter right now, like the loving relationships that you’re lucky enough to have. Those are what inform you the most about who you are and where you’re going with your life. Happiness can be just as viral as YouTube videos, you know.