As a child of Generation Z, technology has shaped my life dramatically. The internet was invented roughly around the 1980s, so a few decades later in 1999, when I was born, cyberspace was flourishing. I grew up with VHS players and cassette tapes, but also flat-screen TVs and desktop computers. Technology is involved in each and every thing that I do. Specifically, communication through technology has framed the way I live my life. My most memorable experience with technology, however, was when I had to go without it.
In the summer of 2016, I went on a month-long trek with a few girls from my camp. We went backpacking in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. This journey required absolutely no modern technology, aside from a satellite phone, which was only for serious emergencies. It was a big adjustment to start using physical maps instead of asking Siri to pull up Google Maps. It was also different to be making plans face-to-face instead of texting each other. We changed our daily rituals, which in turn altered our mindsets. We adapted to new circumstances where we had to practice self-advocacy directly instead of through a screen. It was essential that we planned ahead as well because we didn’t have the ability to fall back on technology to lead the way. Technology does make our lives easier in a lot of ways through access to information, but it also hinders us from sharing true emotions and cultivating connections to other people. During my backpacking excursion, I realized how many times it would have been easier to turn to technology, but we just didn’t have access to it.
A few challenges we experienced included losing our maps and losing track of one of our group members. Shortly after crossing a river, we came to a fork in the road. We immediately turned to look at the maps and determine which path to take, only to find that nobody had them. Panic immediately ensued as the group envisioned being stuck in the middle of the woods with no directions. This would have been the time to pull out a phone and look up directions, but we did not have that option. Instead, we split up and began to retrace our steps. After hours of searching, we found our maps stuck to a bush in the river. This experience taught me that technology can’t always help you. Even if we had used the satellite phone to call for help, we wouldn’t know where to tell them to find us. Oftentimes, we have to rely on our own instincts more than technology.
Our second scary incident was when we lost track of our friend. She was meant to stay in one place while we quickly summited a peak because she had altitude sickness and could not continue with us. She began to get more sick while we were away, though, so she started to move to a lower altitude. When we returned to the spot where we had left her and discovered that she was no longer there, it took all of our power not to become hysterical. Again, a simple iPhone or tracking device would have allowed us to find her in seconds, but the only thing we had were whistles. Thirty minutes after she disappeared we found her farther down the mountain. Thanks to our human skills of rational thought and collaboration, we were able to find her.
It is intimidating to be without the ease of technology, but I think that it is even more frightening once you realize the control that it has over us. The real skills we have in life are not how quickly we can type or finding something on the internet. Our real abilities of problem-solving and handling interpersonal relationship are the key to our lifetime successes. Technology is an amazing feat, but it can detract from the human development and interactions that make life important.