Since March 23rd when lockdown was enforced and it felt like someone pressed the pause button on normal life, it is safe to say that our relationship with technology as a society has changed. Our dependence on technology, especially in digital formats, encompasses all aspects of 21st century existence. From personal lives to education and work, from access to information to our sources of entertainment, it is baffling to imagine how many systems would simply collapse without it. The point here is not to panic at this possibility, but rather to step back and appreciate the power it holds as a tool for communication and consequently, reflect on how it has altered our experience throughout the pandemic.
Consider for a second how different these past few months would have been if we had none of the modern technology we have access to nowadays. Feelings of loneliness and worry would have intensified had we not been able to FaceTime our relatives half way across the country for reassurance or follow the constant updates from TV, news apps and websites. For those reliant on the internet for their job, there would be no option to work from home. You can only imagine how different it would be; and in so many ways, how much worse it could’ve been.
As a student, the final 4 months of my second year at university were transferred online. Though naturally I would’ve preferred to continue my lectures in real life, moving university online was an easy transition and that comes down to privilege. I have grown up with Wi-Fi being a consistent feature of the family home - something I have never had to worry about. With this, comes instant access to information, education, means of communication and entertainment. It is only when faced with a situation like lockdown that I realise how much I have taken that for granted and furthermore, how not having these things could be devastating. It’s alright moving education or work onto online spaces, but this is bound to exclude those who do not have the technology readily available.
The concept of the ‘digital divide’ is increasingly relevant when we consider the ways working life will undoubtedly change post-Covid in terms of office environments and flexible hours. It is therefore crucial that moving forward this is taken into account because now, more than ever, we have to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those around us.
For the vulnerable communities who have had to remain sheltered during this time, access to the internet has been a lifeline. I have seen cases of grandparents using Skype to call their young grandchildren, often to read them a bedtime story through the screen. Though this still feels slightly dystopian, I’m glad modern technology can offer that option because such interactions are invaluable. It has been a way of maintaining a sense of normality even if the world outside feels like it is falling apart, and for that I am truly grateful.