Anyone who knows me knows my love-hate relationship with technology, particularly technology that allows one to multitask in an effort to get more done for whatever reason (competition, compulsion, boredom, etc.). I’m an old school fan of doing one thing at a time with undivided attention, but that’s another story.
My thoughts today are about technology in general and how we misuse that technology, especially social media technology. I’ll use Facebook as an example since I just logged off of it (don’t judge me!).
My understanding is that the original intent of Facebook (and subsequent social media and communication types like texting) was to keep friends better connected when life scatters them to wherever. The aim was to be a tool with which to augment our organic social interactions – that is social interactions arising from physical connections. Unfortunately, these tools are being misused and have ended up substituting or, worse, replacing our organic social interactions. Further, technology such as smart phones and texting are deposing our genuinely organic social exchanges.
Go out and look around any public place – are people looking at one another or their surroundings? Are sweethearts or friends having a conversation that involves eye contact? No. They are looking at or talking on their phones or texting other people instead of giving the people they are with their full attention. This includes people with whom we may not have personal acquaintances (think waiters/waitresses, cashiers, etc.). I can’t decide who is rude: the customer who can’t be bothered to put his or her phone down for 2 minutes to interact with a cashier, or the cashier who won’t look up from his or her phone to properly greet a customer.
Let’s consider the children for a moment; because, what good argument wouldn’t include a statement on the wellbeing of children? The coming generation is ill-equipped to socialize in the world. They are disconnected and isolated, and for that they are angry. The only socialization they learn is through a computer or cell phone. To them these tools are tantamount to connection, yet the connection they feel is empty or nonexistent because these tools were not meant to create organic social connection, only supplement them. So, their anger and isolation is only compounded. They may have had some basic socialization in school, but the misuse of technology in the place of true sustained connection has created a generation of sociopathic, fury filled shells.
Leaning on technology to replace organic social interaction is easy, and we are all prone to do it because it creates a false sense of security. What is more nerve racking than to exposure your soul to someone face to face, eye to eye? And what is more painful than when and if that is met with rejection? The rejecter and the rejected are both left with very painful, unpleasant emotions.
We are allowing our fears of loss and rejection push us to hide behind technology with its false promise of safety and anonymity. Sure, our social pain maybe dulled; we may be even able to convince ourselves that anonymity negates the pain; but, it still exists, and further attempts to avoid or alleviate it are met with the same results. This cycle continues and compounds our problems.
So, stop and smell the roses. Hug your kids, spouses, and significant others. Ignore the cell phones for dinner and any place where you’re going to interact physically with another person. Stop and genuinely connect to the world. See the good and the bad, and recognize the value and beauty of it all. I know I am.