A conversation I had this week inspired this post, and got me thinking about how technology has morphed the way we live today. Writing this as an IT consultant may seem a bit ironic since new technology and software is my job security, but the psychology nerd in me sees something different. As technology continues to become more capable than anything I could ever imagine, it’s also getting us farther away from the authentic and wholesome moments we probably all have experienced in the past. Technology is meant to make our lives easier, and it does in a physical sense, I mean who would go back to a typewriter? But from my perspective, it’s starting to go a bit too far and is making the unseen parts of our lives harder such as mental health, motivation, and emotional intelligence. Technology does a lot of things for us now; taking the full experience and effort out of what we used to do without the aid of a device. Call me old fashioned, but here’s 10 things I wish I could reverse back to how they were!
1. Capturing video footage
It is so easy nowadays to whip out your phone and Snapchat your dad running around the house cheering because your mom approved of the birthday gift he gave her…I did this just the other day if you couldn’t tell already this was a true story. The fact that we can Snapchat, Instagram story, Tik Tok, or simply just use smartphone video any time we want has made moments that used to be so special…kinda just a norm. We are able to video so much now, that we are just living through a lens rather than being present a majority of the time- videoing concerts and putting a whole song on your snap story is a great example of this, or taking videos of your dinner spread. I miss the giant chunky camcorder because the fact that it was a beast made it less attractive to bring it around everywhere, meaning, we were all present and not experiencing every single moment through a lens. Did your parents ever video what you were eating for dinner at a restaurant with an actual camera? How weird would that be? Yet now, it’s perfectly normal to make your McDonalds chicken nuggets be as famous as you used to be in your home videos.
Recently I dusted off (literally) the box of Casey camcorder home video footage. The fact that I had to dig them up, and go through the whole process of loading them into the DVD and actually watch the DVD rather than skip over parts made it more authentic. I came across one of my first gymnastics classes as a 4 year old, the age I coach now, and while all the skills (even the goodbye song) have stayed the same all these years, the one thing that’s changed is the parents Snapchatting their kids through the windows and staring at their phones editing the videos for half the class. Through watching my home videos, I’ve realized the best moments to look back on are the ones not edited out, such as my brother trying to jump in the kiddy pool and wiping out completely. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with documenting kids growing up on Instagram highlights or using social media to easily access memorable moments because that is just our world now, but it feels nice to rewind back to the past in more ways than one sometimes, and see all the unfiltered, unedited, raw footage.
There are just some things that really don’t need to be changed. Touch screen toasters, refrigerators, coffee makers…but the one that baffles me the most is touch screen elevators. I work in the SPS Tower on the 27th floor, and the first day I showed up to my new client, the elevator stumped the IT consultant. Answer this, would you ever imagine an elevator to not have buttons on the inside? Exactly. There’s NOTHING in there except the prayers and hope that I will not get stuck. So how does it work? There is a touch screen in the elevator lobby with every floor listed. I touch the 27th floor, and it will tell me which elevator to proceed to; I, H, K, L, O, or J -apparently A, B, C, D, E, F were taken that day. I have learned the hard way that these fancy tech ones don’t detect someone is in the doors if you try to hold the elevator for someone. I have been an elevator door Lauren sandwich several times already because those things don’t have any mercy for not walking fast enough. I decided to test out one day what would happen after I arrived at my floor and didn’t get out. The doors closed and I did not move. This led to me being stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes until someone queued it up again. This definitely is not more effective than the old way in my opinion, but it might be a great exposure therapy method.
3. Cell Phones
This is probably a very unpopular opinion, but I hate smart phones. While they give us access to so much online, they take away from everything else going on outside of the tiny little screen. Having a flip phone was one of the best things ever because all I did was text, take low quality pictures, and feel really cool when my “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz ring tone went off. I liked the fact that people weren’t glued to their phones all the time. I remember getting my first smart phone, and my interests suddenly shifted. I no longer went outside much in my free time, didn’t touch board games anymore, stopped reading books because Temple Run was life, never went anywhere without it, and all my attention was now on that little screen when I was with my friends or family. Having a smartphone definitely affected my mood a lot more, too, and created more stress in my life than there needed to be. The fact that I had to wait to get a flip phone until 7th grade I now see as a great move in hindsight. It gave me the childhood that kids should have, and protected me from a lot of crappy things in the world.
Now, elementary school kids are getting better iPhones than I am and the number of iPhones is starting to sound a lot like Kidz Bop- you don’t know if they will ever end. I miss the days where we weren’t checking our phones every minute for notifications, Facebook and email could only be checked on the computer, and finding the perfect emoji wasn’t a thing. The only options were colon + parentheses faces or a semi colon parentheses if you were flirting with your middle school crush. Emojis are a part of our vocabulary now, and middle schoolers won’t every understand the gravity of finally getting an old school smiley back from the cutie in homeroom signifying they liked you back.
Call me an old lady, but I miss the days of digital alarm clocks that sat on nightstands, and having to physically get up to find which button would turn it off otherwise it would just keep going. The heart attack that my clock gave me every morning was way more effective than my iPhone alarm that I only hear half the time. By the time I finally got up for school to turn the darn thing off, I’d be awake enough that snooze would be pointless, whereas that is not the case anymore since it is so much easier to justify sleeping 10 more minutes five times when the snooze button is right in front of your face, or the “twinkle” sound isn’t as jolting. The alarm clock also eliminated the habit of sitting on my phone in the morning for a solid 5-10 minutes. When your alarm is on your phone; it only makes sense to go check every social media platform, email account, Target cartwheel discounts of the week, stalk your second cousin on Facebook, look through your whole camera roll, and order your mom’s birthday gift after turning your alarm off, right? For something that is supposed to make our lives easier and productive, making the phone alarm a norm certainly did not achieve that.
5. Social Media
I am a total hypocrite when it comes to this one since I use it daily, but I wish all social media beyond Facebook were never invented- specifically Instagram and Tik Tok. Everyone is so caught up with trying to make it look like they’re living their best lives that it has detrimental effects on mental and physical health. I wrote my senior capstone on how social media directly affects mental health, specifically body dysmorphia and eating disorders in both men and women, and that self compassion and positive psychology are a key to eliminating that. This is a legit finding, not just a correlation. The issue is that social media instills in us automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), and that’s the opposite of self compassion. There is so much comparison that it creates unrealistic expectations, and negative affirmations that our brains recite to us daily. I can even attest and confess to this. I remember having no body image issues or concerns about my life before I got Instagram, but once I did, I started to feel insecure about my looks, thought others didn’t like me if I didn’t get enough likes, and felt bad about not having perfect Pinterest moments. Not to mention, it wastes so much time, yet we all know it and still do it! Even the content that people are posting nowadays has changed. In 9th grade I was posting gymnastics pictures or pictures with my family. Now, I see 9th graders posting questionable selfies, and stories I wouldn’t dare post even as a 23 year old. The impact social media has on people’s decision making skills and emotions is astounding, and I only foresee it to get worse as Instagram will cause more disordered eating due to diet culture, hidden snap stories will promote lying/sneaking around, and Tik Tok will probably lead to even more cringey dancing in public.
I used to wear a watch everyday as a kid because that is how I would check the time…hence what it was made for. Now, Apple Watches are actually making the word “watch” literal- as in – watching our watches for move rings, calorie goals, weather updates, texting, and almost everything but the time. I do believe they are amazing little creations and can be helpful for a lot of things, but they also can be harmful to mental health and productivity. This past month my Apple Watch broke for a solid week, and I felt a lot of anxiety the first few days because I didn’t know how many calories I burned, what my heart rate was, how many steps I took at work, and a whole lot of other anxiety inducing things. It made me stop and think I lived 20 years without one, why is it so hard to go back to not relying on having this information and just going about my day again? Watches were not made to create anxiety except to tell you that you’re about to be late for work again. After the first few days passed without my Apple Watch, my mental health actually improved. I no longer was as concerned about closing my move ring, didn’t think about what I was able to eat during the day based on how many calories my watch told me I burned, I was a lot more present at work and with friends, and I didn’t walk into the clear wall at work again due to scrolling through watch notifications. Let’s go back to glancing at our watch rather than walking into walls shall we?
7. “Ok Google”
My family will full on be able to tell you how much this one bugs me. I am so annoyed by any and all Google Homes, Google Minis, Google lightbulbs, and any other Google device that is not the search engine (no hard feelings against the OG Google). My whole family has converted to talking to Google to do easy things like turn on lights, turn on music, etc…when it actually takes more time for Google to do it since it malfunctions or doesn’t understand half the time. What was so difficult about standing up and walking over to turn on a lamp? To this day, I still refuse to use the 4+ Googles in my parents house and will go out of my way to manually turn on the lights because I can. Yes, it is cool that technology can automate things like that for us, especially for those who may have a disability, that’s where I see technology being beneficial and it should be implemented. But for things that just make things easier simply because we may be lazy or the task takes 5 seconds longer…I can’t justify that quite yet.
8. Watching a movie
When it comes to movies, they’ve kind of lost their pizazz since they’re so easily accessible, and don’t have a “return by” date on them. One of my favorite things to do growing up was Friday night movie runs to Blockbuster. My brother and I would roam the aisles looking for the perfect movie to watch, and argue over which one to get since apparently princesses weren’t doing it for him. When we got home, we’d have a routine of being the “movie hosts” by setting up all the comfy chairs with blankets and pillows, taking popcorn orders, aka, my brother writing on a piece of paper what kind of seasoning wanted, drink options, and crushed or cubed ice then making our parents check the box and return their selections to me (I was the waitress, he was the chef). We would get so excited over this and when the movie started, we were glued to the TV. When Red Box came out, we thought that was the latest and greatest technology that would make Blockbuster go out of business. Still, we loved picking out movies at McDonalds for our Kentucky road trips to watch in the car, and being able to return them to any Red Box across the nation was groundbreaking. Something about getting to pick out a movie that could physically be held was so special. Now, I can’t tell you how many times I have flipped through Netflix, picked a movie, and barely even watched it because I don’t have the urgency to pay attention. There’s nothing ritualistic or special about hitting play on Netflix, knowing you can watch it every single day if you wanted to.
9. Cooking Gadgets
Most people would jump at the offer if someone willingly said they wanted to get you and Instant Pot or Air Fryer, but not me. My family has tried to hard to get me to cave into jumping on the kitchen gadget bandwagon because apparently it cooks lentils and mashed cauliflower like a charm, but I refuse to get on that wagon, because I don’t think I’ve touched a lentil in my life and my pre made frozen mash tastes delightful heated up in the microwave. Plus, I have a perfectly good stove, oven, microwave, and toaster in my apartment! Sure, maybe it can cook my chicken 12 minutes faster than it would in the oven, but honestly, I am not in a rush, and all the different cooking mediums are starting to stress me out! Psychology says that when you are presented with too many choices, it actually causes more stress. In my case, the fact that I would have so many options to cook a potato would make me want to give up and run to the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s. The thought of all the dozens of cookbooks made for each device, all for different diets, makes me want to pull my hair out. I like to keep things simple, and am a bit of a minimalist if you couldn’t tell. The day everyone stops saying “Insta Pot” instead of Instant Pot will be the day I cave, which will probably be nowhere in the near future.
10. Music Medium
When I think back to how I used to listen to music, man has it changed. I never would’ve imagined that Spotify would have become so big after I spent years buying songs off iTunes that I heard on the radio. Even though the radio is still around, I rarely ever listen to it anymore because I kind of forget it is there. While I have the freedom to listen to anything any time I want on Spotify, I have to say, I get sick of my same old playlists all the time, and even when I do hit shuffle, I find myself skipping songs until I find one that I want to listen to. I definitely get tired of Spotify by the end of my work day. With the radio, I never knew what I would get next, was forced to listen to a whole song, enjoyed the talk shows, and honestly, I miss hearing the Shane Co ad every once in a while (494 and Hopkins crossroad…you finish the rest). The debut of a brand new song on the radio was a lot more exciting and hyped up than new songs on streaming methods. Would I want to get rid of Spotify at this point? No, I don’t know if I could do that now that I am instantly gratified by Thomas Rhett whenever I want, but I miss the presence of the radio a lot more now than I used to…except when the severe weather warnings would cut into the middle of the song causing me to run out of the shower mid shampoo due to fear that I would get sucked into a tornado at that instant.
Dealing with change can be hard, and I have found through my job that this is true for all ages. Even I (as you can see) have a hard time adopting changes when I am attached to how I’m used to doing things, and don’t see the need for making my chicken a little bit crispier in an air fryer. There is a whole career dedicated to helping people adjust to change in the business world; but there’s nothing out there to help us adjust to change outside the business realm such as social media platforms, streaming services, making a cake in anything other than an oven, your watch telling you when to breathe, using elevators without buttons, or turning lightbulbs off with our voices. Part of getting others to adopt change is showing why it is beneficial and how it will improve the current process…and I just can’t see that yet myself. I do believe that what technology can do now is amazing, I will not debate against that, but it makes me sad to think that future generations will never get to experience things the way I have growing up, and the simplicity of life before turning a TV on required 5 remotes. If I had one wish, I would make society go back to seeing technology as a luxury rather than a necessity. Would you?