Android or Apple, split-screen apps, digital streaming, 4K and 5G, Firefox OS, Quantum Dot, Mesh Networks, HDMI, Wi-Fi and Virtual Reality.
If all this high-tech jargon is complete gobbledegook to you… relax, you’re not alone! Millions of people feel left behind by the relentless march of technology, unable to keep up with this week’s latest developments and breakthroughs. But if you are bamboozled by your broadband and outsmarted by your smartphone, that’s just fine.
For too long, people have been made to feel somehow inferior or inadequate if they don’t have, and understand, all the latest ‘tech’. Those who can’t or don’t want to keep pace with the newest gadgets and gizmos risk being dismissed as ‘fuddy-duddies’ or ‘luddites’. If you don’t ‘tweet’ you are obsolete and your face doesn’t fit unless it’s on Facebook.
But as Bob Dylan once sang: “the time’s they are a changing”. Finally, society is starting to accept that refusing to be dragged kicking and screaming into the all-consuming world of technology is a valid option. It’s what’s known as a ‘positive lifestyle choice’ – and what’s more, people who make that choice are not diminished, but empowered, by it.
It’s not about rejecting all tech, but selecting that which serves you, using it as suits you, and being confident enough to say “no thanks” to that which you neither want nor need in your life.
On the other side of the coin are those who feel compelled to be masters of technology – and end up being slaves to it. We all know them; people whose personalities are defined by their social media profile, who go into meltdown if separated from their smartphone, whose ‘virtual reality’ is their only reality, who jump whenever a contraption beeps, buzzes or flashes, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
Would you want to be one of these people? Would your life be better for it? Or would you be one of the growing number of people suffering technology-induced stress and anxiety, being medically diagnosed with physical and psychological conditions brought on, at least in part, by the technology dominating their lives?
Across the developed world, people are actually being prescribed “tech detox” programmes as a means of reclaiming their lives and taking back control. The new generation of rehab clinics is not weening people off drink or drugs, but off their addiction to technology and their need to be constantly ‘plugged in’ to a virtual world while disconnected from the real world around them.
So perhaps the ‘fuddy-duddies’ were right all along? Maybe ‘left behind’ is the best place to be if the destination is so undesirable. Even the world of commerce and technology is finally realising this. Sales of the latest all-singing all-dancing smartphones are struggling, while cheap, basic, easy-to-operate models are proving increasingly popular. They are even being positively marketed as “dumb phones”!
Nokia launched a ‘new’ mobile phone that was anything but new. It was a revamped version of its iconic but basic 3310 model from almost two decades ago. And it’s not just mobile phones that are reversing the march of technology. ‘Retro’ is all the rage, whether it’s classic computer games from the ’80s, back-to-basics word processors, perked-up Polaroid cameras or the big resurgence in record player sales as vinyl makes a ‘cool’ comeback.
It doesn’t stop at consumer goods either, as more and more people – especially the younger generation – rediscover some of life’s simple pleasures by turning off their tech and doing something real, like taking a walk in the countryside, riding a bike, joining a class to learn something new, singing in a choir or just baking a cake!
There’s nothing wrong with technology – it has brought immeasurable advances – but its job is to serve people, not make them feel irrelevant or obsolete. The choice to not become obsessed with and possessed by technology is just as valid and possibly more rewarding. Devouring ‘tech’ is a bit like eating tripe; some people love it, can’t get enough of it, swear by its life-enhancing properties, find it appetising and exhilarating… but it’s not for everyone and no-one should be force-fed it.