I knew I was in trouble the first time I noticed I was relying more on technology than on personal observation.
I was sitting in the living room at the bachelor pad one evening watching some educational program on television when I heard what sounded like the rumble of thunder. Instead of getting up and walking over to the window to see for myself, I looked at my phone and punched up the weather radar.
This seemed like a completely normal thing to do until I stopped to think about it.
It occurred to me this was a radical change from the way I had behaved for most of my life, and the evolution had taken place over a relatively short period of time.
I began to wonder in what other ways technology has taken over my life.
Although I hate to admit it, I have exchanged text messages with someone in the same house or office, and even in the same room.
A few years ago, I would have considered that bizarre.
It still seems a bit goofy, and probably rather rude unless I am the sender or receiver. In those cases, it seems almost reasonable.
Then, there are the furtive glances at the phone’s screen.
I don’t consider myself an especially vain person, but I confess I have caught myself checking my appearance using the reverse camera on my iPhone, rather than seeking a mirror. I am sure I am not the only one who has done this.
I have noticed this behavior in bars or restaurants, where I have observed people who appeared to be fixing their hair or checking their makeup while staring at their phones. I soon realized they were looking at their own images, not their phones.
That, too, seemed like rather narcissistic behavior until I caught myself doing it, at which point it became perfectly reasonable.
There is no end to the ways we rely on technology.
I have noticed the type on labels and documents seems to be getting smaller every year. I purchased some of those inexpensive reading glasses at a discount retail emporium. I don’t like to use them, though, so they spend most of their time in a drawer.
When I need to read some small print, either on a label or on a menu in a dimly-lit restaurant, I use an app on my phone that utilizes my phone’s camera and flash to create a lighted magnifying glass, rather than putting on the reading glasses.
If I encounter a recipe or other information that I want to remember, I no longer take out a pen and paper to write it down. I use my phone to capture an image of it, and e-mail it to myself as a pdf.
Other times, I take a photo or photos of an item for future reference.
I am not alone. Recently, while attending a soiree, I witnessed one friend showing another friend a tote bag she had made using a new pattern.
Not having access to the pattern, the friend who was looking at the bag took out her phone and snapped photos of it from various angles, presumably so she could re-create it later.
Having white noise in the background helps me get to sleep more quickly. There was a time when I would turn on a fan or radio to create this white noise.
Now, I use an app that includes a library of sounds, from waves on a beach to the hum of appliances. One can record one’s own sounds to add to the library, or download sounds others have created.
The next time I visit the North Shore, I intend to record the sound of Lake Superior waves breaking on the rocks. That is the kind of lullaby that can make anyone drift off to have pleasant dreams.
When shopping, I sometimes use an app on my phone to scan a product’s bar code. This provides detailed information about the product, along with a list of other places the item is available, and at what price it is selling.
There are apps one can use to record notes, track exercise, follow maps, listen to music, watch videos, or any number of other things.
One of the things I find most useful is the ability to ask Siri, my in-phone assistant, to remind me to do something at a specific time or place.
For example, I might ask her to remind me to research a question when I get back to the bachelor pad. Then, the minute I pull into the garage, I get a friendly reminder to do that research.
It wasn’t all that long ago when anyone claiming to be able to do such a thing, might have been accused of witchcraft. Now, it is common.
Perhaps the most obvious way we come to rely on technology has to do with the basic function of our phones.
They are, after all, communication devices. Their capacity to remember phone numbers and addresses has all but eliminated my ability to remember that type of data.
Today, I can’t remember the phone numbers or addresses of even my closest friends.
I rarely have to enter a phone number anymore at least not after I enter it in the address book on my phone (or computer, since these devices automatically synchronize information wirelessly). I simply ask Siri to call or text my sister, for example, and the rest is automatic.
Perhaps it is for these reasons many of us have so much anxiety when we are without our phones, even for a short period of time. Not only has technology begun to erode our ability to perform simple tasks, but the devices we use have taken on the role of remote storage units for our brains.
If we lose our phones, it is rather like losing our heads, and it can leave us helpless and bewildered, which is an awkward position in which to find oneself.