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The Issue With Technological Convenience

Modern society is almost entirely shaped by its dependence on technology. The way we live, work, communicate, and travel has become so reliant on our devices, that most of us have forgotten how to operate without them. In achieving our quest for convenience and comfort, we’ve developed machines and software that have removed almost every challenge one could face in everyday life. 

However, this has had the adverse effect of making life even more dull and mundane. It’s hardly surprising that most of us are heavily addicted to our screens, scrolling the day away on social media — there’s nothing left to do! But, importantly, it’s from the very monotony of contemporary routine that one realises how much more there is to the world.

Life is undoubtedly easier because of our phones and computers — but who can honestly claim that their devices bring them genuine fulfilment? In the effort to become better connected, we have lost a sense of presence in our everyday experiences. Most people can’t even walk down Market Street without headphones blocking out the world. And who can blame them when everyone else walking past hardly acknowledges you, absorbed by their own noise-cancelled world? It can feel extremely isolating. 

We prioritise the online presentation of ourselves so much that we have completely disregarded the importance of engaging with our real-life communities. The idea of knowing one’s neighbours seems to have been completely lost in this town, as the distinction between students and residents becomes even more defined. For some, the prospect of taking time out of your day to greet the postman and the bookshop keeper is totally baffling — but even if it’s just mindless chatter about the weather, interacting with those around you can lift the spirits more than you might imagine. Consider the legacy you might leave in this town; being known by, and contributing to, the local St Andrews community must surely be more rewarding than being solely recognised for organising the portaloos at the last fashion show? I think most people don’t see the irony in having to wear a committee puffer jacket to demonstrate they have made an impact...

I blame Google Maps for hindering our ability to talk to complete strangers. We once would have relied on an atlas and the goodwill of others to guide us to where we needed to go. Now, however, there is as much need to roll down the window and ask for directions as there is to memorise your parents’ mobile numbers. There’s a lost art in navigating around unaided, and it can be much more fun just to make up the route as you go and see where you end up. Knowing the precise time you will arrive at your destination is just boring; it takes all the adventure out of being hopelessly lost in an unfamiliar place. 

Similarly, when meeting someone new in St Andrews, you can be fairly sure they’ve appeared on your suggested friends list on Facebook, helping to steer the conversation to topics you are already aware they like. But this takes all the joy out of getting to know someone; it’s impossible to be interested in someone’s Barcelona trip in reading week when you have already seen countless photographs of it online.

Technology has also killed our fascination with hobbies — but why bother actually doing something when you can watch someone else do it for seven seconds on an Instagram reel? For want of any other reason, perhaps just to be different?! Growing up with technology has homogenised our experiences, and we have to do something to stand out. I’m not suggesting picking up Morris dancing, but finding something to do that isn’t just going to the library, or sitting on your phone, can feel enormously gratifying.

Disconnecting from technology and tuning into the real world presents a much more satisfying way of living. You might just become more aware of the role you play within the wider natural landscape, or more grateful of this unique square mile of North-East Fife we study in. Just please: don’t feel the need to post about it online!

Illustration by: Isabelle Holloway

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