There aren’t many things that rile me up more than arguing about the terrors of modern technology. More specifically, the way technology is the reason we don’t communicate anymore. Or the reason we don’t pick up a book, call our friends, look at the natural beauties around us, and so on. The list is endless. Our iPads and iPhones are slowly tearing us apart by cutting down on family time, and people prefer to take selfies and spend their days scrolling through Facebook or Instagram instead of spending quality time with their friends.
Some people from earlier generations, as well as some Millennials, are always ready to scoff at our love for what is modern and the way our lives now revolve around screens. Old or young, it doesn’t matter, you probably know someone who thinks we were better off when technology wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. Or someone who wishes that we could just go back to those simpler times of printed word, family nights, and telling each other stories by the fire – though, as a former girl scout, I can tell you this last one is severely overrated.
I cannot disagree that we are becoming increasingly dependent on electronic devices. I like to think of myself as someone who isn’t addicted to her phone but, just last year, I was forced to go five days without it and realized how much I relied on the damn thing without even noticing. It was the easiest way to communicate with my family in another country; it also worked as my agenda and it had the contact information for every person I knew. I even used it, as we all do, as an alarm clock. My phone was the reason I got to work on time and I had never given that more than a passing thought.
We need to rethink the real advantages of “having everything you need in one place” and find a way to solve these issues. With that being said, I would kindly ask that the anti-technology people get off their high horses and think before they nag about how asocial the world is becoming.
There is nothing new about complaining about change and thinking that “The Good Old Ways” were better than whatever it is that we have now. We’ve been ranting about how harmful progress is for centuries. As Peter Norwak wrote in his article Boo! A Brief History of Technology Scares (Nov. 1st, 2011):
“In 1936, music magazine Gramophone lamented the arrival of radio for many of the same reasons that reading and writing were attacked. Ironically, the magazine didn’t like radio because it diminished those two activities, which by the 20th century were seen not as scourges of society, but rather as generally good things to do. Radio had a habit of enthralling kids to the point that ‘they have developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the loudspeaker’, the magazine wrote. Even better: ‘At night, the children often lie awake in bed restless and fearful, or wake up screaming as a result of nightmares brought on by mystery stories.’ The same has essentially been said for just about every new technology to come along, from video games to the Internet to texting.”
Nowadays, we worry about privacy and the way the internet and social media is slowly making it a thing of the past. We say our children will be permanently damaged by growing up with these many devices which, apparently, is a line as old as the radio. My personal favorite, though, is the way some people mourn the loss of our social skills.
There seems to be this assumption that all human beings are social at heart, that we crave for each other’s company constantly, and, if it weren’t for all of these screens in our way, we’d be out there in the “real world”, interacting with “real people”, and having “real experiences”. Somehow, we’ve become the obese humans from Wall-E and the only way to get us off our chairs is to unplug our devices and set us free from their corrupting influence.
Claims that our modern ways are ruining us, as we turn into zombie-like people who cannot operate anything unless it has a button on it, enrage me because it overlooks the fact that not everyone can be social the exact same way. For some, the virtual world is not just a way to get distracted, it’s a place to do exactly what some say it keeps us from doing: meeting people.
“Introverts are often brimming with thoughts and care deeply for their friends, family and colleagues. But even the most socially skilled introverts (of whom there are many) sometimes long for a free pass from socializing en masse or talking on the phone. This is what the Internet offers: the chance to connect — but in measured doses and from behind a screen. […] Similarly, when you’re blogging or tweeting, you don’t have to wade through small talk before you get to the main point. You have time to think before you speak. You can connect, one mind with another, freed from the distractions of social cues and pleasantries — just the way readers and writers have done for centuries.” (Cain, Susan. Why Gadgets Are Great for Introverts. Aug. 16, 2012)
The new technologies that are available to introverts actually make interacting with others easier because it gives us time to collect our thoughts and express ourselves in ways that are more fitting of our personality. We no longer need to make dreadful phone calls, for example, and can instead rely on texting (and the many, many times we can rewrite them) to communicate with other people. Finding people who share our interests has also become easier for introverts. We don’t need to leave our houses to discover entire communities of writers, painters, or knitters when we can do so in a single click. It’s a lot easier than having to endure huge gatherings of people that would otherwise overwhelm us.
It’s easier to be ourselves as introverts through technology, not only because we can control the amount of socializing we’re comfortable with, but also because we can finally join spaces that welcome and encourage who we are. Our quirkiness and our unique point of view can be shared and heard by others like us. Personally, I didn’t even know introversion was a real thing until recently when people started speaking up and writing articles about it, and it was a relief to finally understand that I didn’t have to feel guilty about staying at home and not wanting to call my friend every other day.
It’s never going to be perfect because nothing ever is. Technology comes with its own issues that can’t be overlooked, such as our aforementioned dependence on it, the speed with which a lie can travel the world now, or even the fact that bullying has left the school yards and invaded our homes. To maintain and to keep these spaces safe and positive takes work, and it means that we have to put up with a lot of negativity. Just as it is easier now to find a friend, it’s even easier for trolls to find us.
However, these issues will not be solved by looking back with nostalgia to a time when “things were better” because they never were. We’ve always struggled to move forward and, while thinking of the past might bring us a false sense of peace, no one has invented a rewind button just yet. There is a world of introverts out there who can only face society through the armor of a screen and the safety of an undo button. We don’t need to be rescued from our devices and pushed outside to enjoy the sun and physical contact, quite the opposite. We need to feel comfortable in our own skin and meet others who understand our struggles and our differences in an environment that makes it easier for us to talk.
If you ever feel compelled to complain about how asocial we are becoming and how much easier life used to be when people talked to each other, don’t waste your time trying to find a way back. Remember, there people around the world who rely on this technology because it allows them to be social. Don’t be quick to label technology as something that people need to give up altogether. Like people, technology has it’s flaws. It’s not perfect and we shouldn’t expect it to be.
Do you have any ideas? What do you think about technology’s impact on society? Leave a comment and let me know!
Edited by Viveca Shearin