What we lose by using technology

I hate technology. Although it’s made everything more efficient, it’s saved lives, and I probably wouldn’t be alive at this point if it weren’t for a GPS — I should really say that, more specifically, I hate how disconnected technology has made our society.

I don’t mean to preach as though I’m somehow above the rest of my age group; I’m far from it. I usually stare at my phone while I walk to class, and I’m embarrassed about the amount of time I spend on Facebook. I do these things at least as much as everyone else, even as I constantly scold myself for doing them.

My roommates and I embody the behavior of most college students when we sit around with the television on, glued to our computer screens, cell phones or both. God forbid we have only one piece of technology going at once, or even — gasp — sit around talking to each other while making eye contact.

Even though we’ve gained so much through technological and social networking advances, we’ve lost a lot as well.

Take books, for example. Library trips were a big part of my childhood. I can still smell the musty, comforting scent of the place, see the yellowing pages, hear the librarian reading to us. I’m pretty sure that my kids will never have that experience. They’ll be able to pick the book of the week in a few seconds (on the Kindle Warpspeed or whatever), but they won’t have those memories.

What about handwritten letters? I think we’d all agree that anything handwritten is more personal than the same message typed up. Kids and parents used to write letters back and forth during sleep-away camp — now they stay in touch through email and texts. My mom would tuck little notes and drawings away for me in my suitcase, but why would she do that these days when she can just send a text? I’ve saved all of those notes, and I’ll always have that piece of her, along with a physical piece of my childhood.

I’ve found that printing emails isn’t quite the same.

The ease of communication also dilutes friendships. When we were younger, you went over to your friends’ houses or called them from your house phone (using a number you’d memorized) if you wanted to talk to them. Now, you write on their Facebook walls or tweet at them. Staying connected in this removed way lets us have 500 fake friends rather than five real ones. That may be oversimplifying the matter, but anyone with a Facebook account knows what I mean.

It makes me crazy when I see one girl write on another’s wall: “Miss you! We have to do something soon!” What is the point? Go down the street and see her then, or at least call her on the phone to tell her the same thing. Many of these interactions are driven by appearing social to others rather than actually maintaining a relationship.

I didn’t write this to advocate for a huge change because I know that it won’t happen. For better or worse, technology is progressing and will continue to do so. I just want to remind everyone (as I constantly try to remind myself) that you absolutely will be happier after an hour of talking with friends, running or just sitting outside than you would be after an hour of internet surfing.

Don’t be afraid to ask everyone to put their phones away while they’re at the dinner table. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Email Emily Kelley at emkelley@email.wm.edu.



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