It’s not a new theme, in fact it has probably been told from every generation since the beginning of the twentieth century. When you reach a particular age, change comes more difficult than when you were young.
The last one hundred and fifteen years have seen more change in society world-wide than ever in the history of man (except perhaps Ancient Roman and Greek). Just when we begin to feel like we have a grasp on the speed at which things are progressing (such as in the mid 1990’s), the world gets thrust forward again. In the late nineties we saw a new advent of technology – instant messaging and texting. This became much more prevalent between 2003-2006 with the creation of AOL instant messenger in 1997 and later following such technologies as Nextel’s ‘push to talk’ feature in 2003.
One man’s perspective
Please don’t forget, I am one person. I work in Information Technology and I am a father. So, my views, my outlook on society and where we are and where we are going… may be quite different from your’s. Then again, I could be dead on for most of us. You tell me.
Pros and Cons
I won’t deny that small parts of the increase of communication and technology are a good thing. I am able to speak every day with my father who lives 800 miles away and talk regularly (though not as regularly as I’d like) with my siblings and mother who live 3000 miles away – sometimes instantly because of the advent of today’s communication. However, I truly believe that what we have lost far outweighs what we have gained with technology. Yes. I am in I.T. and do it for a living, but I think that gives me even more of a solid perspective of how much everyone has come to depend on technology.
We as a society have gone from sending a handwritten letter, knowing that the party won’t read it for a few days or picking up a phone to call someone – to instant email transmissions, instant messaging, texting, KIKing and Facebooking every nuance of our lives and expecting instant communication. We have detached ourselves through our technology.
Companies thrive on providing instant communication, instant help, and need to be the first to respond to everything. Otherwise they lose business. So, they increase their communication, which causes their employees to provide that same level of communication in their personal lives, which causes their families to do the same and so on.
It’s one giant vicious circle and at some point someone needs to stand back and look – look at what we are missing because of our need for instant gratification.
What does teaching our children to contain their thoughts in 140 characters teach them? It teaches them to abbreviate everything. I think, there should be a service like Twitter that requires you to write at least one thousand characters. But that would never be successful. Because humans are lazy… and want everything now as quickly as possible.
What have we really gained?
Here are some points of what we have gained in the last forty years since the thrust forward in computers and technology:
- The ability to store massive amounts of data for medical, statistical and research purposes
- The ability to reach someone instantly
- The ability to communicate via video / audio with someone on the other side of the world in real time
- The advent of new innovative medical technologies that save lives every day
- Safer cars, safer planes, safer methods of travel and safer worlds for our children, elderly and handicapped. (this I could write a whole series on)
What have we really lost?
In the need to communicate instantly, constantly, we have lost the core foundation of what makes us human. Here is a small list of items I can think of:
- With instant communication, comes consumption of time on a level we don’t realize. Which leads to inability to personally communicate and think the way we need to.
- The fact that every dollar you spend, every item you buy, every event you participate in is constantly recorded somewhere, somehow.
- The fact that you can’t walk down a street in town without being visible on at least a dozen different cameras (including mobile phone cameras).
- Expecting everything immediately, communication, information – we lose the ability to be patient. To appreciate how good things can truly be in waiting.
- Children, consumed by the electronic world around them – unable to effectively communicate interpersonally with those around them.
- Studies have shown a decrease in our children’s vocabulary, resorting instead to abbreviating their thoughts and desires.
- We have lost the ability to stop and really look at the world around us.
- We have lost the ability to look someone in the eye when we are talking to them. To have that human element of face to face communication, of simply talking – not about anything specific, but just being friendly without pretense to a particular subject.
- With the advent of so much safety equipment we take away: 1. The ability to use your own common sense for safety. 2. Survival of the fittest (which I really believe is more important than we realize).
How can we change?
I strive everyday to stop and just watch people, talk to people, find a few moments to look in a friends eyes and see what is truly going on behind them. We cannot change the entire world around us, but we can change our own tiny fragment of the world.
We can pay more attention to our God given soul to communicate with our fellow man and woman. If we were intended to communicate with those around us instantly, we would have been given antenna and telepathy.
We can alter the lives of those around us by choosing to add the human element and even forcing people to wait for something worth waiting for. It’s not ‘rude’ to take your time… it’s ‘quality’ which is far more important than speed or quantity.