Despite working for a tech website, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love how easy it is for me to connect to my brother in Australia, my friends in Los Angeles and Berlin, and my girlfriend in London, when I’m sat in the next room.
However, I hate how that ease eats into the actual time I spend with people. When I’m with friends I tut and roll my eyes when they’re incessantly checking their phones while we (supposedly) hang out.
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I even get mad if someone calls me while I’m with a friend. “How dare they demand my time while I’m with someone else,” I think while trying to stop my phone from vibrating in my pocket.
I’d go so far to say I’m a curmudgeon with it. If I could, I’d put my and whomever person’s phone in a bag and hide it for the entire duration of our time together. Be it 10 minutes or 10 hours.
If I had kids I’d probably resist with every ounce of my being their calls for a tablet or a smartphone. I would proudly tell fellow fathers that my kids would remain in the digital Dark Ages until I feel they were ‘developed enough’ to know when to put the things down.
I met my girlfriend through OkCupid. We chatted for about six months before we actually met (via email and messenger). And then, when we did, our first date consisted entirely of showing each other YouTube clips and our favourite Tumblrs.
Do you want to know the Tumblr that made me realise how awesome this person was? It was Dancing Alone To Pony. A mostly pointless internet meme made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside about a person I’d never met before.
Other stories from my team included how one met her partner while working in a phone shop – she helped him get an early upgrade. Another still keeps the battered old Sony phone with all the text messages she and her partner exchanged in the early days of their relationship.
When we split up early on in our relationship, it was WhatsApp that allowed us to send sad emojis to each other – to tell the other we missed them. While it was painful, it was a way that connected us without having to explicitly say anything.
Today, the entire history of my relationship lives inside Google Hangouts. There are thousands of tiny exchanges that while most of the time are little more than monosyllabic utterances while we’re both at work, they add up to an incredibly rich mosaic of how we’ve grown and changed together. This would have all been lost had it not been for technology’s pervasiveness.
While we spend most of our time complaining about how technology reaches ever further into our lives, as it does so it creates an archive of every moment you spent – or didn’t spend – with someone. That’s a priceless commodity, and a wonderful consequence of technology’s relentless march. Technology can often appear cold and detached, but we fill that void with ourselves, and the relationships that come out of it.
So, smartphone, laptop and tablet, while I sometimes hate you and everything you stand for, I am secretly in your debt and will continue to be so for time to come.