When technology rules your life

21:07, Oct 22 2012
Vanessa Haggie grew up sending text messages  and is now a big  user of Twitter and Facebook
DIGITAL AGE: Vanessa Haggie grew up sending text messages and is now a big user of Twitter and Facebook.

As technology increasingly weaves its way into our daily lives, just how invasive has it become? We challenged sixth-year law student Vanessa Haggie, 25, to record her activity with digital technology for one day.

Keeping a log, Vanessa Haggie says, was "definitely difficult", as so much of her movement between sites was done without thinking.

"I would read a scholarly journal article in one browser tab, then see I have an email and flick to it for 30 seconds, scroll down on Twitter for another 30, and then flick back to my research essay."

Her reliance on her laptop and smartphone is representative of her age group, she says.

"My generation grew up texting incessantly, and with the advent of Twitter and Facebook, we've just moved that activity from text messages to the internet.

"And since I got a smartphone, the integration of different technology communications into my daily life has definitely increased."


The process of writing it down was eye-opening. "I do love being able to keep in touch with everyone so easily, but it really does get distracting, and keeping the log made me more aware of it."


I wake up and reach for my phone, both because I use it as an alarm clock and because I want to check notifications. I reply to an instant message about an internship from my flatmate and a tweet from a friend, check my email, and then spend half an hour catching up on Twitter and Facebook.


I open my laptop quickly to reread the emailed bill from my power company and check MetService for today's forecast.


I check Metlink's website from my phone to see how far away the bus is. I spend the 10 minutes I'm on the bus reading and posting to Twitter, reading blog updates, and checking my bank account via the phone app.


I send a tweet while walking to get coffee, then put my phone away until I get to the law school library. I pull out my laptop and phone, check Twitter and Gmail notifications from my phone, and then log on to the university wireless on my laptop.


My research essay is due tomorrow, so I'll be on my laptop almost all day. Most of my research involves using online databases, so I keep a browser open with around 10 tabs of commentary, plus a tab for my email. I check on Twitter one last time before starting work, then close the tab so it doesn't distract me. This only works so well when friends are emailing me all morning.


Reading a journal article, I see I have an email. Ooh, email! I spend a couple of minutes reading and replying. This happens at 15-minute intervals - still better than Twitter, since people post to that every couple of minutes.


I take five minutes away from my essay to stretch and check Twitter. Five minutes turns into 10. Whoops.


I have an email from the Law School which needs immediate attention. Having spent 10 minutes reading over the details, I also glance at my phone notifications. I keep my phone on my desk next to me but face down, since the flashing notification light is like a beacon for MUST CHECK NOW.


Essay is nearly finished. I take a 15-minute break, which includes hanging out on Twitter, talking about clothes with the other students, and looking up quotes from Mean Girls. When I go downstairs to get a cupcake, I leave my phone and laptop behind.


I Google the Nasa Curiosity rover. The Nasa website has fantastic artists' renditions of astronauts on Mars. Weirdly, this is relevant to my essay.


I finish studying for the morning since I have work at 1pm. Waiting for the bus to my office translates to five minutes I can spend sitting in the sun reading Twitter without feeling guilty for wasting essay time.


I have a meeting for an hour, including a video conference, then spend a couple of hours taking phone calls and answering work emails. At 2.45pm I nip over to the supermarket for a sandwich, and am glued to my phone the entire time. Tweeting while walking is a marketable skill, I swear.

5pm: I finish work and check Twitter, reply to an email from a classmate on my phone, read a bit of a Tumblr page and fire off a text message to confirm dinner plans.


I go for an early dinner with my boyfriend. Apart from when he asks to borrow my phone to take a photo of something, it stays in my bag, not on the table - tweeting during meals with other people feels rude.


I'm back in the library for the evening, laptop at the ready. I waste 15 minutes checking Twitter and Facebook before deliberately closing all non-study tabs to stop myself getting distracted.


I take a five-minute Twitter break, and email myself a copy of my paper since my laptop has started running horribly loudly and I'm terrified of losing all my work. This has only happened to me once, but it only ever has to happen once.


The other student studying here spends five minutes trying to find me on Facebook so she can message me a selection of memes [spreading concepts] created after the US debate yesterday. She can't find me, so she brings her laptop round to my side of the desk. They're pretty funny, but I think we'd find anything funnier than law at this stage.


Does accessing the NZ Law Style Guide website count for this log? I guess it does. While editing my paper footnotes, I spend half an hour researching how to cite United Nations treaty law and General Assembly resolutions.

10pm: I open Gmail and instant-message my boyfriend to complain how much work I still have to do.


Everyone else in the study room has gone home. I pack up for the night and check Twitter while waiting for the bus, then catch up on Facebook on the bus. Also more complaining, this time on Twitter. What did I even do on buses before I had a smart phone? Boyfriend texts me to say I need to buy cat food.


I check the emailed backup of my paper to see if I've accidentally deleted an important detail. Thankfully I haven't.


While I'm setting my phone alarm for the morning, I glance one last time at Facebook and Twitter, but nothing interesting seems to be going on.

Contact Elle Hunt
General reporter
Email: elle.hunt@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @mlle_elle

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