Much of the technology we use today has come on the scene only in the past couple of decades, but it’s become such an integral part of our world that it’s hard to imagine life without it. The parade of new tech has become so constant, we’ve come to expect it in most aspects of our lives. Still, we can easily become overwhelmed by the profusion of apps, platforms, sensors, cameras, and more.
So which do you keep, and which do you jettison? Learning which tech innovations are truly helpful for you, and which ones aren’t, creates a clearer picture of what you need in your life and how best to use it. Keep in mind that what works for one person might not work for another, but here’s some digital food for thought.
The Good: Mobile Banking
One of the most helpful tools to come along in the digital world is mobile banking. The ability to transfer funds and even deposit a check via your phone, check your credit card balance from your laptop, and pay bills by touching a screen is above and beyond what anyone could have expected just a decade ago.
You don’t even need a special app to take advantage of mobile banking because there are so many ways to access your financial records now, including through the institution’s website. Whether you need to transfer funds between accounts, set up automatic payments, or check your credit score, banking online and through other mobile means has made money a lot easier to manage.
The Good: Video and Online Training
Getting educated also is a lot easier for everyone now, given how many courses have gone online. From YouTube tutorials to dedicated Massive Open Online Courses, you can find almost anything you want to learn online, from data analytics to chemistry, law to art history, and almost any coding language you wish to know.
Want to learn another language? There are websites, apps, and of course, videos of TV and news shows from almost every country online. Want to know more about fire safety or get CPR training? You can enroll in online courses that give you all the details you need. You can even obtain certifications that help you in job searches.
The world of online education is a treasure trove for lifelong learners and one of the better uses of technology in practice today.
The Bad: Bells and Whistles (+ Other Nonsense) in Cars
Some automotive technology updates are admittedly very good, such as reverse cameras that let you see behind you as you back up. But a growing number of cars now come with technological gadgets (really, just bells and whistles) that can make driving kind of annoying — and put you at much greater risk of distraction.
More and more buyers are considering tech when deciding which car to purchase, with 58% citing a car’s ability to integrate personal assistant capabilities. Alexa, are you listening? Yes, it’s nice that you have all these onboard connections for your phone, Bluetooth jacks, DVD players, and more — but how many of those do you need? And are you really focusing on the road when you use them?
These gadgets are also used to justify higher prices on cars, and that can take its toll on a buyer’s bank account. Then, there’s the cost of repairs, which can shoot up whenever you add a more complex part; the parts cost more, and so does the repair because it takes longer. The average cost of repairing a bumper rose from $1,845 for a 2014 model to $3,550 two years later after a distance sensor was added. When you look for a new-to-you car, look at all those tech perks with a cautious eye.
The Bad: Super-Short Videos
Short videos like those on TikTok can be really cute and provide entertainment, but they can also train your brain to accept a shorter attention span. These quick-running clips — most platforms allow 6 seconds — accustom viewers to continually seeing something new in a very short time, which can atrophy the human capacity for delayed gratification. You know, the thing that lets us sit in traffic or stand in a long line without going berserk or checking out entirely.
To keep your attention span longer than a poodle’s, take breaks from watching a million flash videos in a row. If you’re bored, try picking up a book (even an e-book, although paper might be a better choice), or at least watch a full-length movie with the remote safely hidden.
Smartphones: Love them or hate them, you have to admit they’ve really changed our world, whether we’re filming viral videos of encounters on the street or completing work projects while sitting in a park. At the same time, though, people can become so absorbed in what’s on their phones that they ignore people around them.
You’ve probably seen those photos of kids looking at their phones in a museum instead of the artwork. They don’t know what they’re missing, right? Except maybe they’re looking at museum apps about the history behind the art. These little phones create a lot of commotion, and the conclusions we draw aren’t always accurate.
Social media apps have plenty of pros and cons, too. They can keep you connected with friends and relatives on the other side of the country, introduce you to new friends, and help with networking. On the flipside, though, they can create privacy concerns and have even been associated with increased depression.
If you love your smartphone, that’s great — just be aware of its potential effects and be careful how you use it. Check app permissions and download only those apps you know you’ll use. Activate the blue-light filter during a long viewing session or at night. And take advantage of external accessories like hard cases or pop sockets, which protect your phone by making it easier to hang on to.
Technology isn’t all bad, of course, but you also have to realize that it isn’t always good, either. Like any other tool, it all depends on your understanding of what’s available, and how you choose to use it. Try to reach that sweet spot that lets you use technology to make life easier while also staying anchored and active in the non-tech world.
About the Author
My name is Jessica Larson. I’m a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. I create online courses for students, and I’ve started and run several other businesses through the years. My goals are to support my family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for my two daughters, and to share what I’ve learned through The Solopreneur Journal.