Technology-keeping the show on the road

Science and Technology

There is no doubt that technology has stepped in to attempt to fill the many voids in our lives created by the Lockdown restrictions. From education to socialising to entertainment, we all rely on technology now more than ever to allow us to continue with our daily activities.

One of the most obvious ways in which technology has been instrumental in allowing life to continue to an extent during these unusual times has been its implementation to allow online learning. Platforms such as MS Teams and Zoom have allowed lessons and tutorials to continue during the pandemic. Without the ability to communicate with teachers and fellow students that technology allows, in the absence of school and university, students would be left to teach the material to themselves.

Even this would be nearly impossible without online resources such as virtual textbooks, educational websites and access to lecture presentations. Clearly for all students, at both university and school level, technology has served to ensure that lockdown doesn’t mean an end to their learning.

Similar technologies allow individuals the opportunity to work from home. Video-call platforms have enabled firms to host meetings with colleagues from different locations across the country, and even the world. This has allowed employees in many sectors to complete their work from home, while retaining the ability to coordinate and work effectively with each other that the shared working space of an office usually facilitates.

Without the ability to communicate with teachers and fellow students that technology allows, in the absence of school and university, students would be left to teach material to themselves.

Aside from education and the workplace, the capacity for technology to allow face-to-face interactions between individuals affords us the chance to maintain contact with friends and family; continue with hobbies, and even stay fit. Technology has been particularly vital to allow individuals to access medical and social help and support that they cannot safely come by in-person.

GP appointments have been predominantly moved to telephone and video-call consultations. This provides individuals with the opportunity to seek the help they need without putting themselves, or medical staff at unnecessary risk. Moreover, this means that patients can access support from their doctor, even if they are miles away, as is the case with many university students who are currently quarantining at home.

Lockdown presents a unique risk for those with mental health issues. The physical separation from loved ones, combined with the fear created by the pandemic, and the lack of social interactions are just some of the effects of this pandemic that are contributing to the frequently cited rise in cases of mental health issues. Technology is typically associated with poorer mental health, with many psychologists attributing the rise in recent years in mental health issues, particularly in the younger population, to the increased use of social media.

However, during Lockdown, technology has proven invaluable to new and existing sufferers. Social media allows us to stay connected with friends and loved ones, while helplines and online chat rooms allow individuals to access professional support. Technology has been particularly helpful to me during Lockdown as it has allowed me to have weekly face-to-face appointments with my counsellor. This has proven an invaluable support to me while recovering from an eating disorder. Likewise, many others have depended on technology during this period to allow them to continue to access support that they otherwise would go without.

Technology has been particularly vital to allow individuals to access medical and social help and support that they cannot safely come by in-person.

As well as allowing us to complete mundane errands without leaving home through services such as online shopping and banking, technology has proven vital in the continuance of hobbies and societies. From virtual choir rehearsals to sports teams using online workouts to replace their regular training, to online debating, it seems that technology has allowed us to resume all our extra-curricular activities without leaving the house. Many university societies have taken to podcasts or Zoom to host their speaker events and debates, which has allowed them to reach a wider audience than perhaps they may have even been able to before.

Similarly, communication technologies and social media have allowed us to retain a sense of unity and connectedness, despite being physically divided. At a college level, Facebook and Zoom have proven instrumental in allowing for social interaction and the organisation of events between members of the community. Technology has allowed not only for the continuation of daily college business, with Zoom being used to host JCR motions and virtual hustings, but also for morale-boosting activities such as virtual pub quizzes, and even Discord bops(?).

More than ever, social media has come into its own during the lockdown. The ability that this technology affords us to communicate with friends and loved ones is integral for our social and mental well-being, as well as for our entertainment during this trying time.

Lockdown has seen the rise of the Zoom Quiz and virtual happy hour. These are just a few examples of the opportunities that technology afford to enable us to stay connected with friends and to replicate social events that have been cancelled. After taking pains to teach my grandparents how to work FaceTime, this has provided a way for us to stay in contact with them while they, like many, are forced to isolate in their homes.

We owe a lot to technology. As well as allowing us to stay connected and stepping in to provide a virtual alternative to our normal activities, technology has kept us entertained during what has undoubtedly been a very stressful and depressing time. Whether it is streaming films on Netflix, chatting to friends on social media, or following at-home workouts, technology has certainly presented us with endless ways to keep occupied in the absence of being able to leave our homes.

Zoom is being used to host JCR motions and virtual hustings, but also for moral-boosting activities such as virtual pub quizzes, and even Discord bops(?)

However, while hailing the prosperity that technology has brought during these unprecedented times, we must bear in mind that it is not an equal benefactor. Not all individuals have access to expensive devices with inbuilt webcams to allow them to access these social, educational and entertainment benefits that technology can offer.

For example, particularly alarming is the fact that children in many households are unable to access a computer or laptop on which to carry out their online lessons. Hence, while celebrating the way that video calls have allowed classes, societies and social activities to continue online, we must be wary of the already existent inequalities that are being exacerbated.

Image Credit: Marvin Meyer

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