I’ve been told that I’m an old soul in a young body. I tend to dress modestly, listen to music that came out way before I was even born and have a pretty reserved nature overall. Sending letters in the mail is more personal to me than sending emails or messages on Facebook. I enjoy crafts such as crocheting and sewing. I sometimes even forget that my car blinker is on. But the most telling piece of my old soul is my inability to keep up with technology. My younger brother often teases me about it, like my long-time refusal to get a smartphone until recently. As a 20-something born smack-dab in the middle of the digital age, I should be on top of all this! Why can’t I figure out all the functions on my iPhone? What is the point of Snapchat, and why can’t I save any of the pictures? Why would I want to order clothes online, when I can just go to the store and actually try things on?
Technology is changing fast, and I am doing my best to get caught up with my peers. But is all this development a good thing? As I start to use and research things I long resisted, I am finding varied pros and cons for updating my life. Here are some of my findings:
Probably the biggest reason I resisted online shopping for so long is that I like to be able to check out and handle something before I purchase it. This especially applies to clothing; women’s clothing is notoriously horrible about consistent sizing, and trying on before purchasing is necessary. What finally convinced me to embrace online shopping? Obscure shoes and clothes. Where else but the internet can you get things like saddle shoes or other vintage style clothing? I’ve never been happier than when I found my first pair of adult jelly shoes, because I have been incredibly disappointed with sandals since 1999. Only on the internet can I find my off-the-wall fashion needs. Another great thing about online shopping is the convenience and peace it brings to the holiday season. As someone who worked in retail for seven years, I know from both sides how horrible holiday shoppers can get, and how crowded and busy stores are, making the shopping experience terrible. Being able to avoid all that nonsense is bringing back the Christmas spirit to this girl, who spent too many holiday seasons on both sides of the holiday retail nightmare.
On the other hand, online shopping has a lot of down sides. If you need something, buying it online will always come with a waiting time, even if you pay for overnight shipping. For clothing and shoes, you won’t know if they fit until they arrive at your house; and in the likely case your items don’t fit, there is the hassle of having to send it back, which quite often is at your own expense. Other things might come damaged, or not the quality you expected because you couldn’t handle it first, also resulting in having to return them. But probably the most notable issue stemming from online shopping is what it’s doing to businesses. Stores all over are closing because they are failing to compete with online shopping. Malls across the nation are reporting 10 to 40% percent vacancies, and businesses are filing bankruptcy and going out of business left and right. I still enjoy walking around a store and browsing, but with all these closings, how much longer will we be able to do that?
Until last year, I had this amazing brick. It did exactly what I needed it to do for the past five years – text and call people. As my brother upgraded every time a new iPhone came out, he would pester me about when I was finally going to join modern society. But I maintained that anything I could do on a smartphone I could do on my computer, and I didn’t need to be connected 24/7. Eventually, though, the price of that texting phone plan nearly matched the price of a smartphone plan, and it no longer made sense to keep resisting. So, I got myself an iPhone 6, and am actually pretty happy with it. Now I can take decent pictures of my dog at a moment’s notice, and I don’t have to go searching for my camera. Gone are the days of going onto Mapquest to print directions to a new location, because now I have GPS to guide me. If I’m arguing with someone, I can just reach into my pocket where all the information in the world is at my fingertips to prove me right (or, on occasion, wrong).
What I don’t like, though, is how dependent I have become on my phone now. I rely on it for almost everything; my alarm, my notes and reminders, my entertainment. With so many fun and diverse apps, I spend way more time on my phone than I’d like to admit. I’ve become lazier, and my attention span has shrunk considerably. This, of course, isn’t exclusive to me. Smartphones are hurting communication between people because they are so addicted to their phones. It’s irritating when I’m out with friends and they start playing with their phone right in the middle of our conversations. I have to reassure myself that I’m not boring them, and that they are just unable to go five minutes without checking their phone. Even more worrying is how smartphones and other handheld devices are are affecting children. Not only could it be hurting their interpersonal skills, but their brain development and learning abilities as well. While smartphones are incredibly useful tools, there is definitely a price to their convenience.
I haven’t quite jumped onboard with wearable tech just yet, but with friends and colleagues singing the praises of things like fitbits and Apple watches, I am starting to look into it. Wearable tech has made a huge difference in how people view and track their fitness and health. One friend in particular said that her Fitbit helped her to make a drastic lifestyle change, and that the tracking functions aided in making that possible. She could track how many steps she took, and at what times of the day she was active or sedentary. It tracked her heart rate and monitored her sleep as well. She was able to use all the info provided by the tracking to see where she needed to make changes in her lifestyle. She could also share the info on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, helping her keep accountable by sharing her successes with her friends.
The ability of these devices to track and share health information could be looked at as good or bad. Privacy concerns are definitely real when this personal health information can be shared and seen so easily, and laws that cover the privacy of health care information in hospitals don’t cover these personal devices. But having all of this information tracked could also save someone’s life by giving doctors vital information that can aid in decision making.
Whether you are hesitant of growing technology or dive head first into the latest innovations, the undeniable fact is technology is here to stay, and it is constantly changing and developing. We need to find ways to keep up and stay engaged with it, but also find a balance with “old fashioned” life as well.