I love my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Let’s make that clear and get it out of the way right upfront. I Iove my Samsung Chromebook. No, this isn’t a promo for Samsung nor Google. I’m sure if I wanted to pay far more money for an iPad, Mac or Apple Laptop I’d also love that overpriced, fruity gadget. Technology changed and continues to change our lives and, arguably, we’re all mostly the better for it. This is no diatribe on how to ditch your Droid or Ebay auction off your iPad Mini to return to the good old days. Good old days being collecting magazines as fire hazards, or stuffing file cabinets full of fat folders, and bookshelves of dusty VHS tapes or scratched DVDs? Consuming media like movies, TV, magazines and books on digital devices is a convenience and pleasurable, as is texting and surfing the web. Over Using. This is key to my points on the over saturation of digital devices like iPads and tablets.
Ads, Tracking & Marketing
Like commercials? Love getting bombarded by pitchy pitchmen and wailing women demanding you buy the product their bosses are hawking or your world won’t be as brightly lit, economical, efficient, or smell as good as the next guy or gal? I’ll admit, ads can be fun – I love the Duluth Trading Ads – but mostly, we zap ads.
It’s not only TV ads. Internet can’t easily be dismissed. Ads which sneak up on you by filling a page with a flash of digital trickery are cleverly annoying. I loathe ads bursting into action on a form you’re filling out or accessing email. Talk about performance anxiety! I’m typing in my password and you want me to pay attention to an ad? Thanks, but that multi-tasking is dangerous, unwanted and unnecessary. Frankly, it’s not only unprofessional, it’s offensive.
Ads – and the cookies and tracking software – on the pages monitor where you’ve been and where you’re going. Surf away, but if you don’t have anti-tracking software running, don’t feel footloose and fancy free. There’s no free internet lunch, so using Facebook and Twitter or whatever will always bring with it a penalty – your privacy. Who cares if I love Red Bull and wear Prada? Advertisers, retail stores and corporate sponsors certainly care and want as much information about you and your buying habits as they can gather. It’s especially important when talking about children. More social and technology experts are advising parents to maintain as low an online profile on their child as possible – that includes photos online, since facial recognition software is so advanced now.
Fixing Data – No Permanent Record
Books may be dusty, musty and even old school, but one thing they are is a reliable permanent record. So too are newspapers and magazines – a documented snapshot of a particular day, week or month. Digital data is so easily erased, manipulated and augmented, the historian in years to come may have a hard time accurately isolating historical instances in various societies.
Take the recent execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle. The man was a powerul figure in the North Korean government – experts say the second most important and powerful next to Jong-un himself. Shortly after Jang Song-thaek was executed or ‘purged’, mentions of him and records of him were erased from North Korea’s websites and online archives. In the future, if a historian relied soley upon North Korean digital records, they’d have a near impossible time reconstructing much about the doomed uncle. It’s a safe bet any books in the country were confiscated and destroyed, but for the brave among the populace that hid a few away, a fixed and reliable document of the man and the events leading up to the execution exists.
Decay of Natural and Spontaneous Social Interaction
Remember a time when you spoke with strangers? Or at least talked with them more. Today, we take our world with us out into the shared one in the global public square. Our books, magazines, music and movies follow us everywhere. Instead of sharing a joke on the train or bus about the weather or asking someone for directions, we tap our Weather widget on our smartphone and boot up Google Maps. I love this convenience and rely upon it myself, but it’s kind of sad.
More and more of us are tuning into our artificial world and dropping out of the real one. It’s great to read the new Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer novel on the train and then switch to surfing or the morning’s news, but it’s taking many of us out of a spontaneous and genuine life experience. Nobody wants to be bored on a long train or bus ride. I’d be the first one to sneak in a game of Angry Birds to alleviate a slow down in my day, but there’s so much digital diversion to be employed. Once again, children are specifically in need of monitoring in this area.
Young developing minds need a structure and a reality that much of the digital and virtual world can’t strongly provide. Learning games and educational programs are great and are things in both the school and at home which can and should be explored. However, the latest findings from medical authorities caution against throwing our kids iPads and tablets and walking away. Growing minds need the reality of the playground, of the fixed, reliable document of books and paper, the grit and gritty and smell of finger paints versus digital Photoshop. Above all – they need stimulating interaction with their peers.
How can kids interact normally with each other when they keep their faces plastered to a glowing screen? How can we all move closer to each other when we seem to want to put each other at arm’s length by being constantly absorbed in tech gadgets? It may even get worse as the new generation of wearable computing devices rise up. Google glass and watch like tablets are growing in popularity. Soon, we’ll not only never forget our smartphones, but we’ll be wearing them nearly all the time. The next step will be devices implanted into our bodies. When it happens, when humans and machines blend, the prospect of a whole new way of defining humanity beckons. Good or bad – it’s coming.