How the pandemic year changed our relationship with technology

Make no mistake, the past year was rough for a lot of people.

Without even mentioning everything else that happened, the word "pandemic" might just be enough to make many people pause and think back to the stressors of 2020.

In a year so tumultuous, technology became a lifeline for so many, even as it split the world into those who could hurdle past the year's barriers thanks to technology and those without the means to get by.

The year 2020 changed a lot of routines, changed the situations of many, and may have altered our relationship with technology. Let's revisit the ways in which technology left its mark.

Connections and division

Technological developments in the social space, from social media like Facebook and Twitter or chat apps such as Telegram, FaceTime, and Messenger meant a lot to people separated not only by distance, but by hospital walls as doctors struggled against a disease that upended nearly everything.

Forcing social distancing and quarantine rules made communication doubly vital. Messaging apps were perhaps the only consistent way of saying hello to friends and family, and perhaps more achingly, served as a means to say goodbye to loved ones who were dying but could not be visited.

Social media was where we got updated information on things like infection numbers and what steps were being taken by countries to combat the pandemic.

Governments serious about stamping out the disease, from Taiwan to New Zealand, used social media as an effective tool to get citizens to get on board with ideas necessary to keep infections down and risks low.

At the same time, it was also a source of division, as disinformation spread through such channels and made sound science more difficult for people to stomach.

With social media, strongmen poisoned the well of politics as they sought to project strength and composure during a pandemic beyond their control, and companies may have benefited from the spread of disinformation even as they tried to take those bad actors down.

2020 was a year of technology-enhanced connections and division, but there was more in store.

The day-to-day of survival

The year also brought changes into how we worked and, in a lot of cases, may have cost people their jobs entirely.

To get by, technology enabled the day-to-day of survival.

E-commerce and delivery apps provided jobs in the ever-growing gig economy, as riders transported goods from one place to another. For those without empathy, technology also allowed them to prank drivers who spent capital to buy food that was never meant to go anywhere but false addresses.

Meanwhile, some homemakers got through the pandemic year thanks to those online buy-and-sell arrangements for food and other wares.

Aided by riders and supported by their community, the entrepreneurial spirit shone through for those with the cooking skills and business acumen.

A stark reminder of the digital divide

Even as we talk about day-to-day survival through the use of technology, we must also note how 2020 brought up the digital divide to the fore in a more acute way.

According to analyst firm Canalys, world computer market shipments grew 13% in the third quarter of 2020 and the global PC market is expected to grow 35% in the fourth quarter.

Despite this assessment of growth in the purchasing of PCs, the Philippines dealt with a student base and a worker base that needed technology – from computers to phones and access to the internet – to work or go to school, but lacked a reliable means to get funding for that purpose.

The result was a hodge-podge of gap-clearing in the education sphere, as education departments tried to take their teachings online to mixed successes, physical worksheet blunders not included.

For those who also had access to online banking or a digital means of payment, streaming video entertainment to while away the time spent indoors was a boon. For those with fast, reliable connections to the internet, the world of gaming through online downloads and play also opened up avenues to forget about their troubles for a while. Worldwide, the video game industry grows and thrives during the lockdown.

For everyone else, technology was a quiet reminder of despair.

Hope

Even as we struggle with despair in the year 2020, let us try and cling to hope.

Science and technology allowed for relatively fast responses to the pandemic and it's the two – working in tandem with scientists and doctors and researchers – that aided in the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

It's with technology that people are able to reach out to ask for help. In cases like that of a young girl who broke her arm following the disasters which struck Bicol, it allowed people to bridge the digital divide and extend aid.

I personally want 2021 to be a better year for all of us, but there's no way to predict what 2021 will throw at us, even with all the technology at our disposal.

My own personal wish, after seeing everything 2020 brought, is to see the year through and hope the technology sector is less about business and more about people's welfare in the coming year. May we all be so blessed. – Rappler.com

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.

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