We have a love affair with technology. No one can deny that. Technology is a great influence on the way we live, but we seldom think about its negative consequences.
Technology is touted as connecting people. But connections are more than texts, e-mails or social networks. Feeling the person’s energy and sensing a person’s demeanor cannot be gauged through digital electronics. Trite smiley faces just do not hack it, even if they vibrate. And faux “friends” cannot replace those flesh and blood people we need to “be there” and break our isolation and loneliness. Technology is immune to the subtlety of personality, feelings, and emotion. Messages are more than content – intent and sentiment are important to understanding.
Technology is impersonal. Sure, texting and e-mails are quick, but would you rather receive an e-mail or a handwritten note? Texts are not conversations. They are one-way statements totally controlled by the sender who decides when or whether to respond or ignore.
Communication takes reflection and thought, not just immediate reaction and quick response. Our hearts and soul are more easily transmitted through the pen than the keyboard. Seeing a person in the flesh is better than a photograph and a “tweet” with insipid abbreviations is no replacement for a two-way conversation.
Technology is fact. Speed can kill – particularly critical thinking, civility and reflection. We expect instant responses and when we do not get them, we get angry. The pace of our lives has quickened and our patience is taxed because of the expectation for instantaneous communication. Our patience wears thin and manners evaporate.
Reflection and thought dissolve in the rush for quick answers. The distinction between opinion and fact evaporates. Truth is not always immediately evident: it takes work to uncover. Technological speed can make us intellectually lazy. Bang! The answer is there. Why go any further or dig deeper? Quick posts with instant judgments are not always factual and reliable.
In addition, our privacy is endangered. Personal and business mobile phone conversations invade our solitude in restaurants, airports, planes, and stores — almost everywhere. Rudeness is prevalent and the virtue of silence seems totally alien in today’s public places. Finding silence and stillness is difficult in the age of incessant technological chatter. Privacy is also threatened through hacking and the possibility of government access to our communications and whereabouts. The fears of “Big Brother” are not totally without merit.
Meaning and technological bombast are not synonymous. Critical thinking is at risk as each of us reports in to sites that simply reflect and sustain our point of view. Our corridor of opinion and perspective can be dangerously narrowed to dogma. Silence and reflection are missing. The web and cable is full of opinion foisted as facts, where point of view overwhelms accuracy. The disgusting and insulting presidential campaigns by both sides is proof of that.
The issue is using technology intelligently and understanding its limitations. Our love affair with technology is fraught with hazards and complexity. Yes, technology will always be a factor. But truth and intellectual curiosity should not be the victims. Ultimately the old fashioned art of conversation of sharing ideas and thoughts in a true dialogue cannot be reduced to a text or e-mail.