Communication

Technology, my friends, is a wonderful thing.  It enables us to work wonders.  I can see pictures taken by family on the other side of the country seconds after they’re taken.  I can talk to friends and family face-to-face on Skype regardless of where they are.  I can customize my playlist, my phone, everything.  I can personally tailor my own little universe.

However, in some ways this makes me less open.  Sitting on the subway with my iPod and book, I am less likely than ever to strike up a conversation with the person next to me.  Sweating in the gym next to people who live in my apartment building on the treadmill, we are all plugged into our own soundtracks or watching the television and don’t even know each other’s names, though we live in the same building.  I can customize my Facebook (and have) so I only see the profiles of people I like, to limit interactions with those who differ from me in opinion and beliefs.  Because of technology, if I want to sit at home on my own, I can listen to music, watch movies or television, game, or talk to other people on the internet, all without leaving my apartment.  I can build my own life without once needing to talk to another human being.

 Is technology hindering our ability to truly connect with people?  Are we taking that for granted?  We can pull our phones from our pockets, push a few buttons, and instantly, we have connection.  It used to be that messages took days, or even weeks to send.  My family lost power for four days recently in the aftermath of a thunderstorm.  There was no television, no phone, no internet.  We went outside one evening and sat in the shade talking with our neighbors.  And it was great.

As much as I appreciate how easy it is to keep in touch with friends and family via technology, I can’t help but wonder how tainted I am by it.  I don’t even know my next-door neighbor’s name, but I can talk to my family in California on Skype.  (to be fair, she did introduce herself when I moved in, and I’ve since forgotten it.)  Anyone who has been in a long distance relationship will tell you that seeing your significant other in person is infinitely preferable to Skype.  Yet, how many relationships have been dragged out indefinitely because of Skype?  How many people have hoped that someday, life will bring them and a significant other back in the same geographic place?  To be fair, Skype is amazing for military families who have no choice and other people in similar situations.  But how many of us have been in college or post-college relationships where we didn’t have the ability or desire to move to be with our significant other?  How many hours have we spent trying to make something work instead of living in the moment, where we are?

Has the quantity of our communication abilities reduced the quality?  Are we dulling our senses to true human connection by substituting television shows and Facebook conversations?  

And what does this do to the idea of solitude?  How many of us are capable of truly being alone, of spending time in a room by ourselves without television or music or internet?  Can we just spend time truly alone?  Or is technology infringing on our ability to reflect on our lives, to see ourselves truly?  I know so many people who come home from work or school and sit on the couch in front of the tv or the computer (or, as I do, sit on the couch with my laptop in front of the tv).  And then we complain that we have no time.  It’s true that a certain amount of unwinding and relaxation can be achieved through mindless entertainment (I’m no one to judge – I’ve watched just about every season of The Bachelorette) – but how much is too much?
 
Lots of questions.  No definite answers – and as with many things, it’s probably a case of individual taste.  But perhaps it bears some looking into.  When was the last time you really talked to the checker at the supermarket instead of chatting on your cell phone?  Smiled at the person waiting in the elevator with you?  Turned off your computer and went for a walk outside?  Turned off all technology and just sat with your own thoughts?
 
Yes, technology is a wonderful resource.  But let’s not allow it to dull an even more amazing resource – our own minds, hearts, and souls.
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