©2019 Tracey L. Kelley  All rights reserved

Technology: friend or foe?

December 20, 2017

 

Watching "Black Mirror" prompts a great deal of introspection.

 

And a teensy amount of fear.

 

Charlie Brooker is a captivating writer who sends us just a little farther into the future than we are now. But the world is vastly different. I'd never heard of him before the anthology series, but after more research, feel I ought to look into his other works. I appreciate his perspective in the series as to how easy it is to let technology override or interfere with our humanity.

 

Below is a post I wrote for another aspect of my business, mindful listening workshops. I create these with the influence of yoga practice and teaching because the concept of connectivity intrigues me. After reading, reach out on the contact page if you'd like to chat about it.

A “relentless connection” to technology leads to a new solitude, says MIT technology and society specialist Sherry Turkle. For 15 years, Turkle has explored our lives in the digital world. Her findings? “As technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.” She outlines this research in her book, Alone Together.

 

Technology makes it easy to substitute immediate connectivity for true connectivity. It’s not like we don’t know this. Memes float around social media, displaying messages such as, “Life is what happens when you’re checking your cellphone”. This prompts people to pause and chuckle, then continue to check their news feeds. People stack cellphones in the middle of a dinner table with the warning that the first person to answer during a meal pays the check for everyone. An entire college bans cellphones to promote better engagement.

 

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet up with faraway friends who I see every few years. One of the friends owns a public house, so we gathered there for drinks, dinner, and games. For nearly four hours, we shared stories, some of which dovetailed from social media posts we may have read about each other weeks or months before, but now these stories had open space to roam, filling pockets with laughter, and delving into details. We talked about everything and nothing all at once.

 

And in all that time together, with the exception of one person who stepped outside for a quick smoke and cellphone check, no one was online. We remained face-to-face, engaged with one another, building new memories from this activity. All of us are savvy with social media and the Internet–in fact, many of us work in those fields, and respect their contribution to the world. But we also respected that listening to one another is exactly why we hired babysitters and drove hours to gather in the same place together. It was a rare opportunity to step offline and really connect to one another.

 

Technology isn’t a foe of listening, but substituting a non-interrupted face-to-face lunch with news feed updates can actually inhibit deeper, richer connections with people who matter to us. Turkle mentions in her book that one young man said that he’s more awkward socially when around other people, because he doesn’t feel he has time to think of the right things to say like he does when posting or texting. And yet, helping each other relate face-to-face is exactly what we should encourage! Would this young man feel differently if paired with someone who listened attentively and gave him time to express himself? This is one example of how Turkle once thought that technology was a tool for playing with identity, but how it now might be replacing identity.

 

We created technology because we desire it in our lives. However, just because it exists doesn’t mean it takes precedence over listening, sharing, and laughing with one another. Nobel prize-winning author Mario Vargas LIosa says, “Unless high culture reasserts itself in the face of television and computers, society will face the prospect of an ‘authoritarian nightmare of a world controlled by technology.'”

 

We are the high culture. So, I thank you for taking the electronic time to read this. Now let’s both go take a walk and find someone to talk with, and leave our electronic devices on the table.

 

Just for a little while.

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