Our correspondent explains the myriad ways in which technology spreads its baleful tentacles throughout modern life…
I often dream of running away to Norway and becoming a small-time fisherman. I’d make a living out of hauling a dangerous array of crabs from the stretching grey ocean floor each day at the crack of dawn until the sun bids farewell to my solitary existence each night. Get away from it all, you know; escape the sand stone cells we inhabit at Oxford. Leave the endless essays behind me; fly from the FOMO Facebook updates that plague me. Of course, this dream will remain just that.
Reality would have it that after a week of blistering my hands for the sake of disappointingly small crabs and a corroded supermarket trollies, I’d undoubtedly have an inexplicable, in-built desire burning from my empty midriff, a yearning for the technology I left behind. And then I’d rush to the nearest small Norwegian town, brushing off the biting snow, to find the nearest available internet, kicking down Haakon the hairdresser’s door to access his laptop and post a #fishermanselfie for online world to appreciate. ‘Look world, love me’ it would scream.
Technology is ruining my degree. Even in my fantasies of isolation I need it. Even in social gatherings with the ones I love there is some part of my fractured brain that is yelling for an update, a window into the filtered lives of people I don’t care about. Why? My essays, supposed to be the culmination of fastidious reading and preparation, have become half-assed ramblings. The end product of an evening’s verbal vomiting onto my laptop that spellcheck then sanitises. All because I deem it necessary to have ten-minute internet breaks from my work (that will inevitably become hour long spirals into the darkest recesses of YouTube as though a crack fix for an addict). I could blame it on our generation; perhaps we have been brought up like this, with internet allowance being used as a reward for good behaviour. Or maybe the ocean of Wi-Fi we inhabit has melted our brains.
Who knows, but what I do think is that we – the millennial cohort – are especially fucked. Our parents had little to distract them but the Cold War, AIDS, and the imminent threat of nuclear apocalypse. All faux problems. We have the constant stream of shite from the fringe-famers, the people who have deemed themselves famous and we, as a weak society, have gone along with it. Listened to their crap, given them the fame they so desperately desire. Then they repay us with a constant update on their lives which fills our newsfeed. Screaming from the open tabs we have during our important revision and reading times we need to be doing.
Fuck them, I say. We have the distractions of all the student journalism that also clogs the u-bend of newsfeed: spicy titles that lure us in; ‘Which college is the shitest’, ‘Hilary’s hottest nightclub happenings’ and even ‘How technology fucked my degree’. All interesting names that act as the brilliant neon-bright wrappers on the often bland and flavourless stodge that lies within, trapping this ADHD generation. And yet it remains – at the crucial moments it is more interesting than my degree.
YouTube, as mentioned before, is not free of charge. I promise myself that educational videos are benefiting my studies, but soon the boundaries that separate the educational videos blur and I find myself justifying how ‘Will it donut?’ is making me a better intellectual. And, of course ,a step away from the contents of the technological world, we find the culprits themselves: the hardware. The laptops and tablets we stare into with near-divine love. Their glow warming our hearts and their microwaves insidiously warming our brains. Then they crash at helpful times, for that deadline in ten minutes we must fulfil. Fuck you Bill Gates. You’re the reason I got a third in my lab report.
Paradoxically, though, I do believe that technology may also be the only reason I’m still on my degree. The infinite array of knowledge we possess at the simple push of the button is there, ripe for us to copy and paste. Wikipedia may redeem technology of the many flaws I have put forward. A wondrous cornucopia of potentially false trivia – I salute you Wikipedia. You can stay.
Perhaps I am overreacting. Perhaps any human of any age presented with the technology we have today would drop whatever club or book or pistol they were holding and lock themselves into the web of attention-grabbing sites we inhabit. Or perhaps it is our generation that are that little more susceptible to the dopamine rushes we score when scouring the internet, or when our piece of technology pings a response to our narcissistic online behaviours. Whichever way round it is I can surely say that, without the distractions and failures of technology, I would have finished the essay I’m supposed to be writing right now.
Maybe one day I’ll live out my dream of fishing on the open seas of Norway; nothing but me and the infinite emptiness of my own thoughts and the North Sea. It’s more likely I’ll find myself locked in an Oslo hotel room with my eyes glued to a small apparatus that is directly beaming all the possible data of the world into my frontal cortex. Whilst outside my window mere feet away the Northern Lights emit their balletic dance of beauty for me to miss. Sad really.