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Unplugging

Working in the AV industry has opened my eyes to so many new and exciting things. From the car to the kitchen to the workplace, technology is being integrated into almost every aspect of our lives. For someone who has been in the AV world for only a little over a year, it’s amazing—and sometimes a little jarring—to see just how much there is to learn and understand. However, a good challenge has never stopped me, and through the support of some pretty awesome folks, I’ve been able to build up my knowledge base.

Within the first few months of working at Control Concepts, I got my fourth fish tank, an upgraded 55-gallon home for my goldfish. The goldfish would finally get a reprieve from his predatory roommate, who would then have a 20-gallon tank to himself. As a rehomed fish tank, it came with a filter, a light, and the rocks for the bottom—everything a fish keeper could need, minus the timer, a luxury item to turn the lights of the tank on and off without requiring me to perform a gymnastic routine to get behind the tank to do it manually. 

Before my company closed for the holiday break, I had received a smart plug as a gift. By installing an app and pairing the plug to my mobile device, I gained the ability to control the fish tank light from the comfort of my couch. But the technology kick didn’t stop there. By downloading the IFTTT (If This Then That) app, I was able to set up parameters for the smart plug, making the lighting completely automated. By the end of the first week, I was looking into what else I could use with a smart plug, perhaps even overhauling my kitchen, appliance by appliance, into a smart kitchen! Who cared that the previous week I had been afraid of the technology. 

The year before, I had finally gotten a KitchenAid mixer and that was more technologically advanced than hand-mixing things. To date, it’s one of my favorite appliances—a smart kitchen was definitely feasible.

While taking out the ingredients for brownies, I was still thinking about my smart kitchen and how it would help during the holidays. The key to making brownies is to not over-beat the batter. Placing my mixing bowl on the butcher block next to my fancy mixer, I hand-mixed my brownies to the proper consistency before getting them into the oven. 

Like the old fluorescent bulb in my kitchen, the light slowly came on, a thought dawning on me. As much as I was loving the new technologies I was learning about—apps that create automation, interactive displays, programming for sound/DSP work, the concept of cars being controlled with 5G signals ... the possibilities seemed endless—I realized that at the end of the day, my hand-mixed brownies will always come out better than when I use the fancy mixer.

My chocolate cake recipe turns to a dense, chocolaty-fudge brick without my mixer, but my brownies get tough and chewy when they’re not hand-mixed.

Similarly, we have to find a balance between enhancing life with technology and forcing a technology-driven life.

With so many educational and occupational tools that teach students and enhance the workday, it is easy to get tied to them. At least once a month, usually around the third week, my boyfriend and I review the calendar ahead: birthday parties, volunteer work, work commitments, family obligations, local events, housework ... that list is practically endless, too. By the time we’ve coordinated schedules, figured out exactly how many hours we can stay at one event before making it fashionably late to the next one, we’re already exhausted and looking forward to next month, when things won’t be as busy. But next month comes and there are more birthdays, more volunteer work, more work commitments, more, more, more!

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times from friends, coworkers, and fellow members of the AV industry: “I don’t know how to make more hours in a day.” Everybody seems to need more time! With the use of various apps, like the Apple and Google calendars, we can keep track of our commitments. We can plan ahead and schedule accordingly. Video platforms like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and Skype allow people to connect all over the world, eliminating missed opportunities to meet and the time spent in traffic, airports, or, worst of all, airport traffic. We can send emails, texts, and messages that arrive in an instant.

In the educational world, students and teachers exchange their personal devices for laptops equipped with programs to complete their assignments, make learning easier and more accessible, and help teachers track their students’ progress. With our smartphones attached to us by an unseen gravitational force, it is nearly impossible to miss an email conversation, social media notification, or group text. For the majority of us for the majority of the time, we are connected to the world.

For all the good technology can bring to the table, it’s important to remember to leave the cellphones, the laptops, and the smart devices off the table during meal time. It’s okay to leave them on the nightstand and take a break from the wireless world as you unwind for bedtime. Unplugging ourselves from our devices can give us the opportunity to once again appreciate the wonder of technology. It can also give us a chance to reset and remember the magic of the small things in life, without looking through a camera or staring into a screen. If you really find it hard to unplug, I’m sure there’s an app for that.