COLUMN: Today's technology is detracting from life's beautiful experiences

Friday, April 22, 2011 | 1:09 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Last week, I was out to dinner with friends and someone apologized to me for being on their cell phone. For a moment, I felt like the old womanknown for being strict about technology in public. And then I realized, I sort of am, at least when it comes to a group gathered around a table.

I love my Blackberry and am always listening to my iPod. My computer is basically a third limb. I’m baffled as to how anyone made plans before cell phones because it seems these days we’re still making plans even after we've begun  actually doing them.

It’s not that I hate cell phones or never send text messages — in fact, many people in my life would attest that I’m quite guilty of my own aforementioned pet peeve. I simply think we all need an occasional break, and if that break isn’t going to be taken when we’re out with friends, living life in person as opposed to in cyberspace or through phone lines, then I worry for future generations.

I understand a quick text to update a friend who's meeting the group or responding to an important email. It’s the incessant checking of Facebook or Twitterthat gets to me. The kicker is that I do it, too, probably more than I’d like to admit.

I’m constantly questioning how things worked before we had the technology we rely on today. Last week, my friends Evanne, Rachael, Gwen and I spent an hour trying to order tickets to a Mumford & Sons concert online. We failed, after typing in the impossible security codes and hitting refresh repeatedly.

I thought back to the film “Dazed and Confused,” in which a road trip to get Aerosmith tickets is a constant topic of conversation. Although I couldn’t get Mumford & Sons tickets because thousands of others were trying at the same time, it's still convenient that all I really lost in this failure was about 50 minutes from my night in the comfort of my friends’ apartment.

However, I’m sure that “Dazed & Confused”-esque Aerosmith fans did travel miles with their friends in pursuit of concert tickets, and though it was inconvenient for them, I bet they had a great time doing it. And they didn’t even have a device on which to check their non-existent Facebook news feeds.

Although our cell phones and the Internet (and the Internet on our cell phones) make our lives easier and allow us to be constantly connected and skyrocket the convenience factor of any situation, I can’t help but think we’re missing on a bit of life.

So my plea is this: Put the phone away when you’re out and about. Hit that power button. Heck, leave it at home! I plan to take my own advice in an attempt to enjoy the little things in life. (And if the little things in life for you are Angry Birds or a good texting conversation, fair enough, just take a night off here and there.)

One of my favorite simple set of lyrics comes from indie band Neutral Milk Hotel, who write, “But for now we are young, let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see.” Life’s beauty can be hidden behind the film today’s technology has on our eyes, so peel it back, and see what you can find.

Amanda Koellner is a senior in the magazine sequence at the Missouri School of Journalism. She is a columnist  for the Missourian and a music department editor for Vox.

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