Having been born in the early 2000s, I have lived this past decade more independently and consciously than earlier years. I've learned plenty about myself and that which influences me, and in hindsight, I've found nothing quite as influential as technology.
I distinctly recall my first device: the Nintendo D.S. ("Dual Screen"). Plastic and rectangular, half-touchscreen and simultaneously reliant on a multitude of buttons, the Nintendo introduced me to the nascent sphere of video games. While my brother found his calling among Mario and Luigi, I spent my precious, parent-delegated time developing my virtual dog-haven in "NintenDogs." I even remember messaging over "Pictochat," through which I could send my brother poorly drawn doodles of flowers (and portraits of my Nintendogs, of course).
Technology bled into my music experience, too. No longer did my loved ones have to suffer through Hannah Montana or Rihanna blasting through our family speakers; perhaps it was strategy on their part that I received the glorious iPod Shuffle. The "Shuffle" was a beautiful creature in all of its sleekness and simplicity. It had no screen -- only fast-forward, rewind, pause, and play buttons. The device was no more than a square inch in size and could clip onto my Gap cargo shorts. Although I've stopped using it, the Shuffle remains my favorite device. It was simple and did its one job perfectly well.
Then came the iPod Nano, which revolutionized music-listening by introducing a screen, colorful apps, and games. (I hear you sighing.)
And then came the all-consuming iPhone. In fairness, my journey with the iPhone hasn't been completely toxic. I first used the 4S in fourth grade because, when I started taking the bus to school, I needed a means to communicate with my parents. The phone was strictly for texting and calling, so I didn't play games or download superfluous apps.
When seventh grade rolled around and when my parents told us that we'd be moving cross-country, they became open to the concept of Instagram. As recent as 2015 might seem, Instagram was much cleaner then than it is now. I posted "wholesome" photos of my dog, my friends from the swim team, family excursions. Instagram was a portal to keep in touch with far-away friends and family.
Now social media has become a mess: users are hungry for followers, "friends," aesthetically-pleasing photos, money. Now that Instagram allows its users to post long videos, feature sponsored content, and "Direct Message" others, the app has become difficult to navigate. And I know that I'm not alone; I don't have games or Snapchat on my phone, but I know that those apps can be equally as manipulative and magnetic to youth.
My decade of technology use hasn't been so smooth. But in a positive light, it has taught me plenty. Through technology, I've learned how to balance my time management and sort my priorities. I've learned how to tell "friends" from friends. I've learned that texts don't allow for genuine conversation, but phone calls do. (It helps to hear someone's voice, at least.) But most importantly, I've learned through technology that free time is best spent with the people I love — in reality, and not through a screen.
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