I honestly don’t know where do the normal folk get their notions about technology. They must be talking about this stuff on Faux News or some other low brow TV shows because I keep hearing people mouth the same tired old, techno-phobic catch-phrases without thinking. It is as if at some point the society at large established that technology is bad, but we are gonna have it anyway, and there is to be no re-evaluating of this position.
I have no clue why so many people got into their heads that the Internet is a “mixed bag” that offers a lot of benefits but also has a lot of drawbacks. It is great for research, education, business, commerce, self improvement, entertainment and etc, they say, but it is bad for the society as a whole. It pulls people apart. It makes them interact less.
My question is: on what planet exactly is this estrangement happening? Where the fuck does the internet (and technology in general) erect walls to human interaction? Because I’m certain it is not on planet Earth, or at least not on the East Coast of the United States. Where I live, the internet has been a force of good, wholesomeness and it actually brings people closer.
Let me give you a few examples from my personal life. Granted most of this is anecdotal evidence, but so is the shit other people use to justify their (incorrect) opinions so it’s not like I’m braking rules here.
One of the most common complains about technology is the text vs talk straw-man argument: that we text more than we talk these days. And yes, it is a straw-man because text messaging did not replace or subvert regular telephony in any way. It simply provided another channel for communication.
In the olden days (that so many people seem to long for) you had to wheel out your rotary phone and painstakingly dial a long number, wait for the other person to pick up the phone, say “hello” couple of times back and forward, and then communicate the actual message along the lines of “I shall be departing shortly, and ought to be with you within a fortnight”.
These days you just text the other person “I’ll be there in 5min” and you are done. Its quick, easy and most importantly asynchronous. The recipient of the text message does not need to be at their phone, or even have it with them in order to receive the message. It is like email for your phone – or like a quicker, more convenient version of voice-mail. Convenient because you can read it instead of listening to it.
It is fundamentally different and used for different purposes: asynchronous communication vs synchronous conversation. It is an additional communication channel and I’d say having another way to communicate with a fellow human over the distance is an improvement.
And yes, people text more than they call. Why? Because it is better. When voice was all we got, we used it for everything. If you only have a hammer, then every problem starts looking like a nail. If you have a hammer and a screwdriver, then you suddenly realize half of the “nails” are actually screws and you can use the more appropriate tool.
I seriously don’t need you to call me for everything. If you need me to pick up milk after work, fucking text me. If you want to let me know you gonna be here in 5 minutes we don’t need to have a conversation. If you want to send me a funny picture of your cat… Well, good luck doing that over the phone line.
Phones are for intimate, personal conversations – it is for the important stuff. It is for telling someone you love them, or that you miss them. Voice communication is for those times when you want to empathize and connect. Text is for impersonal daily bullshit. I see no problem here.
And if you still long for the times of voice only communication, what about Skype and Face Time? Yes, text messaging is impersonal, but it is not the only thing we got out of this whole internet and telephony revolution. We also got video phones – like in the old science fiction movies. Those forms of communication are actually more personal because you can actually see the other person. It is as close, intimate and personal as you can get without actually meeting in person. The spectrum goes both way.
But you will notice that people use Skype and Face Time less often than they use regular telephony. Why? Because voice only communication is more convenient.
Somehow people got it in their heads that back in the day people communicated more, because they had to do it in person. This is absolutely false. Or rather, the people who lived close to each other probably did this. But if you moved to another town or city, the communication was often severed or severely restricted.
Do you really think things were better when people had to either meet face to face, or write snail-mail letters? I do not. My mom lives on a different fucking continent – an ocean away. And yet, I can talk to her every other day via Skype.
Hell, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs I am able to keep in touch with friends and relatives that I never really meet in person because we just live too far away, or have too incompatible schedules to be able to hang out often. And yet, we talk, interact and are big part of each-other’s lives. If it wasn’t for social networking, we would probably grow apart and become estranged.
You want to know another funny thing? My cousin met her husband thanks to online dating. If it wasn’t for the internet, she would have never met him. They didn’t have any mutual friends, they did not share same hangouts and their social spheres did not intersect at any point. Based on their work, their schedules and preferences it would be extremely unlikely for them to even bump into each other on the street by accident. But thanks to the magic of the internet they met, hit it off and are now happily married.
I honestly do not understand how could anyone claim the technology we have now is tearing people apart, deteriorating the social connections and erecting walls that impede interpersonal communication. In my experience, the technology is doing the exact opposite. It provides us with new, more specialized channels of communication. It makes communication faster and more immediate. It makes physical distances irrelevant to interpersonal relationships. It allows people to be involved and plugged into the lives of their close ones even if they live far away. Technology is wonderful, and it is helping us be more social. It brings us closer. If you think otherwise, then I’m sorry but you are wrong. Either that, or you are using the technology wrong somehow.