Connected

When I entered the Asiapod program, I was given an iPod touch which I could use to send my blog entries and take photos with. I named this new device, “Temptation.” One of my interests is how technology affects our lives and what we gain but also what we lose when we adopt new technologies. I know many Americans who have the latest technological “toys” which helps them stay connected to many people but they often miss out on face to face conversations and more meaningful relationships when they are busy cultivating their “Facebook friends.” I try to be conscious of my use of technology and the experiences I may be missing while I am playing a game on my iPod instead of looking out the window at the Vietnamese landscape. I have used my new iPod to record an internship event that I had to use for a project, to listen to music, for maps to give taxi drivers directions, alarms, notes of things to do, weather and record my workouts but I do not use it in ways which inhibit m experiences in Vietnam but to enhance them. The iPod I had before I only used for music. I don’t find myself texting at dinners or playing games instead of being immersed in Vietnam. I don’t use it to take pictures unless I forget my camera and I don’t use it to write blogs or to get on the internet at all. I am on my computer enough, I don’t need to be connected to the internet every second of the day. I am beginning to worry what the Vietnamese are losing on their new quest to acquire wealth. I notice that my roommate spends more time on her computer and her cell phone than I ever do, or have done, even when I was at home in the states. I never see her studying or doing work, which greatly surprises me as I always have a list of the things that I need to accomplish during the day.

With the rapid change from poverty to modernity, the Vietnamese have had to adapt quickly to new technologies. When we traveled to the Mekong Delta, I was very surprised to see that the people had very long antennas so that they could have TV. As we went on a bike ride through the area, passing each house on our tour, we had different theme music as it screamed out of the televisions in their homes and out into the humid air of the Mekong. These TVs, sound cranked up, bellowed that these people are experiencing wealth and abundance as they never have before and they want their neighbors to know. Their displays of wealth are very public, often the flat screens and sound systems in the cities are situated right in front of their open doors so that everyone can see that their family is prosperous and thriving.

The young people have become addicted to their devices which are attached to their palms, reflecting the Americans I left at home. We have become their example of prosperity and wealth. They want to be like us with our cars and technology because they want to get ahead. My Vietnamese roommate here in Hanoi, gets text messages and phone calls late into the night, I never see her without her cell phone. We went to dinner the other day and throughout the meal she was on her phone. When we left we were walking down the four flights of stairs to exit the building, she fell down the stairs trying to walk and text at the same time. Her message was more important than her safety, her answer had to be instant and she could not wait even a few minutes to send the message. She was not hurt, laughed it off and continued to text as we walked, often crossing busy streets, to our building.

I see countless men and women every day on their motorbikes and calling and texting at the same time. Urbanization has caused a rise of people moving to the cities and the roads are often over crowded. The effect of the newer law that people must wear helmets on motorbikes has made people wear helmets but they are inexpensive and do little for protection. I have seen many accidents while I have been here and my Vietnamese buddy in Ho Chi Minh City’s aunt was a fatal one. These incidents are not uncommon but there are not any laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while riding motorbikes.

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