Nathan’s Notes: Finding the digital middle-ground

There’s nothing controversial in stating that technology has changed our daily lives.

Both in a professional environment and a personal one, digital connection has completely flipped the way nearly every person in 2018 lives. Smart phones are the norm, and the sight of anyone using a flip phone often catches me off guard.

While a majority of people utilize technology on a day-to-day basis, the stigma around the “death of personal connection” is something I feel surrounds the use of digital connectivity as a whole.

However, the debate of how connecting online has helped or hindered the world’s ability to communicate is far more of a complex matter than some assume.

Personally, I’ve struggled to consistently find the right middle-ground between connectivity and unplugging. Last year I spent a good chunk of my school-year working on a project which explored digital connection, interviewing folks who advocated both sides of the debate.

Since hearing several arguments, I’ve found myself looking at my own digital-connection with a closer focus, though I still question if I’m over reliant.

Modern conversation, or lack there of, is often the go-to topic of argument when opposing tech use. However, I have a hard time accepting that technology has truly hindered the way we talk. While a group of friends sitting around a table all on their cellphones is not uncommon, being able to access the internet and find an image or video in seconds has also created a tool that enhances conversation in a way previously not possible.

Others argue technology has become a crutch, with people pulling up their Instagram feed whenever there’s a moment of discomfort. This side of the argument holds more weight to me personally, as I often unconsciously find myself flicking through social media whenever there’s an awkward silence or during a long wait at a coffee shop.

I’ve recently made an effort to consciously avoid this, making the attempt to embrace the waits and reclaim my patience. However, this often feels like an uphill battle, as the motions involved have become second nature — somehow I always end up halfway through a Twitter thread without even remembering when I grabbed my phone.

On an extremist level, digital detox and swearing off personal tech-time seems like a natural solution. Though I don’t think I’m sold on that side either. I’m far from a Luddite — I think technology has given us numerous opportunities that only increase the quality of our lives, and swearing off technology completely gives away more gifts than it’s worth.

Whether it’s through a friend’s Facebook post announcing the birth of their son, or simply a video call home, I’ve stepped back and realized how incredible our ability to connect has become on a macro scale.

Therefore, the middle-ground seems like the simple objective. Though, even that I’ve found is easier said than done due to the vague definition it carries. What is the right amount of screen time? And how should I be using it?

While I figure it all out, I’ve come to a temporary-fix of just trying being conscious of my digital-use. Technology is a gift when used right, and being aware of the opportunities a smart-phone can lend itself to can make all the difference. Without the thought, it’s far to easy to take what we have for granted.

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