An overdose of electricity

As reported by the Detroit News, more than 75 percent of the U.S. population ages 12 and older listens to the radio daily, and 94 percent tune in on a weekly basis. Advertising Age reported a Nielsen survey from 2006 that noted that the average person spent 30.5 hours per month using their home computer as opposed to 25.5 hours per month in 2004. Meanwhile, Apple managed to sell its 100 millionth April. Does anyone see a trend here? This is the future, ladies and gentlemen, brought to you by the flickering screen and the constant sound of canned music. Enjoy.

The greatest difference, without exception, between our age group and the ones that came before is our constant attachment to personal technology. Certainly the formative years of the baby boomers were marked by the ascension of the television, and over the years new technologies came along to provide ever-more sophisticated diversions to a culture with the leisure time to enjoy them. From that standpoint, then, the current attachment to MP3 players, Internet applications and the TV is a logical outgrowth of the decades-long trend toward an increasingly tech-savvy lifestyle.

Yet in the past, technology was just part of life; it did not consume it. One could sit down to watch the television and, since doing so required a conscious effort by the viewer, it was something fundamentally separate from the other activities of one’s day. The older diversions were used and then put away.

While this is true today if one regards each piece of technology individually, when regarded as a whole it becomes clear that there are no respites today. A computer, for instance, is not something one logs onto for a set period of time and then turns off. Everyone uses one every day for social functions, work and simple amusement. Thus, while the computer is admittedly not constantly being used, it is constantly primed and ready for use. One may not always be listening to music, but it is always only one click away, be it from a radio, an MP3 player, or the omnipresent computer. Personal technology is everywhere and ready to be used in a way it was not in the past. Now there is no reason to spend time engaging in any activities that do not require the aid of technology. It is omnipresent and is the easier route both to the completion of work and the fulfillment of leisure.

We are losing the ability to focus and to accept difficulty because, in a world where everything can be performed and/or experienced through an electronic medium, there is no need to focus and there is no need to accept more difficulty than is necessary. Why go to the trouble of learning penmanship when word processing exists? Why spend time searching for music when it can be found without effort on the Internet? If we as a society truly want our discipline back, we will take steps to rid ourselves of this addiction to technology and we will learn to accept the slow in return for re-evaluating the careful. We will learn to turn the computer off.

Andrew Hamner is a freshman majoring in journalism and may be contacted at