I absolutely love texting. It is quick, easy and convenient. I can send out a text message to a mass distribution list. It cuts down my task time significantly. I can reply at my own pace. I can ignore at my own will. Is it not awesome? Is it not the best thing that has ever been invented?
Surely this convenience has not had a negative effect on our ability to communicate with other people. Or has it? Let’s face it. None of us are going to stop texting. I certainly will not be going on a text fast any time soon. So what have all these technological convulsions done to us — socially and relationally? They have made us socially incompetent. Here is why:
I do not want to focus solely on texting. Technology in general has modified the way in which we think, interact and relate to one another. The pharisaical side of us wants to say that technology remains our servant. The truth teller in us reckons that we have become servants of our technological masters.
So we find ourselves in this crazy cycle. We want to disconnect. But we know that we cannot. We want to seek solace and solitude. But even during those short moments, we are anxiously awaiting to get plugged back in again.
Here are five observations about technology that are evident in our culture and have become absolutely mainstream:
1. I share — therefore I am. No longer is any trivial event in our life complete until we have shared about it either on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This includes meal times, random things we witness on the road, sunsets and various scenery and whatever else happens to occur in the daily grind of our lives. It is almost as if whatever we are involved in did not actually happen — until we share it! When it has finally been shared — when people have liked our status — when people commented on our post — only then do we feel satisfaction that someone else has affirmed our existence. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. We are in a way a by-product of this technological culture. This is just the way it is.
2. Quitting is crazy. Many addictions can be cured and done away with. The problem with technology is the fact that we are unable to function without it. Try to go to work today while leaving your cell phone at home. Attempt to get through your work day without logging in to a computer. Avoid checking your email for a week. What will happen? Disaster most likely. So we are caught in this cycle. We cant quit — because we need to function — yet we want to unplug — so what do we do? We opt for a short digital detox — which can be quite beneficial. But again, we crave to get plugged back in again.
3. Our Phone Is An Extension Of Ourself. Most of us can’t imagine living a life without a cellphone. The cell phone has become an extension of who we are. It is not necessarily a status symbol because everybody has one. But it is a part of our every day life. Some of us even spend more time with our cell phone than with live people. When we are rarely away from it, the feelings we experience mirror that of not seeing a person you love for a while. You might deny the validity of this but it is true nevertheless. Some people have even said that their cell phone is a place of hope. We feel safe and secure when it is nearby and within reach. How many times have you called out in desperation to people around you: Where is my phone? Has anyone seen it? How come such strong emotional feelings come about? It is because our phones have become beacons of dependence and security.
4. The Narcotic Of Notifications. We are extremely excited when we get any type of notification. Whether it is a new email, a new like, a new comment, a new post, a new anything. It does not matter what it is — so long as it is new. Why do we enjoy it so much? It is because again — it provides the notion that whatever we are being notified of — it is somehow going to enhance our life perpetually or our current situation temporarily. In addition, as human beings — we crave affirmation and desire attention. Interaction is great and I always welcome it. I love to receive notifications as much as you do. It is not necessarily a bad thing. But, it is the way we are now programmed. Notifications serve as anchors of optimism and provide promises that are unwrapped like presents when our thumbs gently tap our pixelated screens.
5. Virtual Over Physical. Have you ever responded to a missed call on your cellphone via a text message? How many people in your life do you currently keep contact with exclusively using an electronic medium? What is the reason for this? It is precisely because we want to respond on our own time, at our own pace, using the medium of our choice. We are even afraid of the immediacy of a phone call. We are able to hide from one another. Do not get me wrong. I love technology and all the mediums of communication that it offers. But what I am saying is that we should seek human contact as much as possible. It is impossible sometimes. But what steps have you taken to take back that human contact in your own life?
We can be so busy trying to communicate that we are actually disconnected from everyone.
Here are some issues we are facing now and will continue to experience as we move forward in a culture, dominated by the digital:
- Fewer people will have the ability to actually learn. Future education will focus on: How to learn (not necessarily learning a certain subject).
- People will need to be taught and trained how to remain alone, how to remain in solitude and how to reflect without distraction.
- The lines of privacy are slowly but surely blurring and disappearing.
- Validation and affirmation currency will exist virtually.
- Validation and affirmation physically will slowly be undervalued.
Question: How has technology affected the way you communicate? What steps have you taken to ensure having human contact within your daily life? What from the above do you see as the biggest danger for remaining socially competent and conversationally relevant?