The technowhore generation

At 8 p.m. eastern time on April 17, the BlackBerrys had a meltdown.

At 8 p.m. eastern time on April 17, the BlackBerrys had a meltdown. Well, maybe not a meltdown, but definitely a technical glitch that left more than five million BlackBerry users without their treasured companion. And people panicked. Stuart Gold, a BlackBerry user, said in The New York Times April 19 that he “started freaking out. I started taking it apart. Turning it off. Turning it on. I took the battery out and cleaned it on my shirt. I was running around the hotel like a freak. It’s very sad. I love this thing.” After 10 long hours of not being able to phone home and access their e-mail, service was restored and people breathed a sigh of relief. Not being a part of the BlackBerry community, I was interested as to why exactly this made the news and, after reading the article, it made complete sense.

BlackBerrys are like crack, and it’s not just BlackBerrys. It’s everything technological.

We have all become technowhores, and the BlackBerry situation just showed to what extent.

Apparently when the BlackBerrys stopped functioning, their users did as well. BlackBerry users experienced symptoms similar to that of drug withdrawal, describing feelings of isolation, longing and anger. Someone said that quitting smoking was easier than being without their BlackBerry. Amazing that being without a technological gadget can be worse than nicotine withdrawal. And it’s not just BlackBerry users. Everyone can be affected, depending on their own specific technological addiction.

Since 1997 I have had an internet connection. I love it. It is my lifeline. I get the news from the internet, I keep in contact with my friends by e-mail, MySpace and Facebook. I have over a hundred bookmarks in my favorites folder. Did I mention that I love the internet?

Every time the internet has a glitch, it’s horrible. I can’t check my e-mail, I can’t go on IMDB, I can’t access thousands and thousands of pages of information that are usually at my fingertips. And with that inability comes the effects of internet withdrawal. First is the irritability. I snap at people, I get grouchy. It’s like PMS, but in some weird sense, worse. Cable television just doesn’t cut it, and neither does chocolate. Then come the jitters. It isn’t until my laptop says “connected” that I’m happy and feel in control again.

People are like this about everything technology-wise. There are iPods that you can fit thousands of songs on. Cell phones that you can take pictures with, play music on and use to surf the internet. PDAs that you can fit your entire life into, and which make pen and paper obsolete. Digital cameras that make kids say, “What’s a 35 mm?” Televisions (how archaic does that sound?) that allow strangers to enter our homes and talk at us, and computers that allow us to visit every country imaginable without leaving the comfort of our homes. I have yet to meet one person who doesn’t own at least one of these items. It’s no wonder that people have become so attached to things that seem to make life easier. Technology has become ingrained in our culture, and in us.

And just what is so bad about all of this?

People are becoming so dependent on these technological wonderlands that it begins to affect their day-to-day life. Like the BlackBerry situation proved, people who forget these items or don’t have access to them have trouble functioning without them.

Can anyone even remember a life without a cell phone? What it felt like to not be tethered to everyone in your phone book, or to go anywhere you liked without having “Canon in D” playing in your pocket or purse every time someone called you? Many people now say that they feel lost if they mistakenly leave their phone at home. Never mind that you can buy a watch and have the time on your wrist, or that you have voicemail so that you will know who called you. Cell phones have become the baby blanket for the adult set.

Or people who use PDAs. Forget the ancient day planner. You now have a cute little mini-tech-pen that you can use to scroll through, well, everything. Funny how I have waited in lines behind people who have literally taken 15 minutes to find a phone number because they lost it in that little do-dad of theirs. Sometimes technology seems really unnecessary, and counterproductive.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t covet a BlackBerry of my very own.

It must sound like I want the world to go back to the Dark Ages, or to live like the Amish. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. Technology has certainly made life so much easier (and at times, fun), but with that comes some drawbacks.

Because of things like the BlackBerry, the Sidekick and the internet, it makes it that much easier to go without talking to a real live person. We have begun to live in our very own bubble, forgetting that there are other people around us. It’s no surprise that peoples’ social networks have shrunk in the past 20 years and that more than 25 percent of people say that they have no one to discuss important matters with–they’re too busy fiddling with their iPod to make new connections. It seems the little bubble that we enclose ourselves in is getting smaller, as well as lonelier.

There is something freeing in the thought that someday all of our beloved gadgets may freeze up and cease to function, making the choice of whether or not to get the newest tech-du-jour obsolete. To write a letter longhand, to receive a phone call without knowing who it is, to get my news solely by newspaper and to not get the shakes every time my internet goes on the fritz. But until that time, I’ll continue to put my earbuds in, text message my friends and go to Argentina while still being able to sit on my couch all at the same time, simply because I can.