Is Technology Causing a Disconnect in our Culture?
The jury is still out yet many have already pronounced technology guilty of causing us to become more disconnected even while it presents us with more ways than ever to be connected. Richard Riche puts it succinctly on this post, “We live in the most connected age ever, yet we are often more isolated than ever.” He writes, “Human connection is an essential part of surviving the digital revolution.”
I believe, however, that it is our desire for human connection which is driving the digital revolution. And that’s a good thing.
In his book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, Walter Isaacson writes, “Almost every digital tool whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans for a social purpose: to create communities, facilitate communication, collaborate on projects, and enable social networking.” We are reaching for connection. Technology is simply the most effective current method by which we do that.
Yet, there is evidence that we are farther apart than ever before! Paradox is fun, isn’t it?
Let me weigh in on the positive side of this issue by sharing a personal story that illustrates the human desire for connection, and technology’s role in supporting that desire.
It was February 23, 2017, and my Book Club was meeting at my house that night. Only this wasn’t just the night of Book Club: Earlier that day I had launched my second book, Sounding the Drum: Communty Building in the Digital Age. The girls were aware that this was anything but an ordinary day for me. It was also just four days after my Birthday.
Moments after the arrival of the last member, I turned around from the bar where I’d been making the tea and coffee to see them standing there smiling broadly holding a large cake box, a Birthday card, and a bottle of champagne. Soon we were taking group photos of us all, awkwardly trying to fit the cake and the champagne in the photo with us.
As we got into our discussion, I heard my iPod’s message notification ring a few times but I ignored it. I heard others’ notifications going off as well, but everyone left their gadgets aside and continued to discuss the book. It was only after the girls had left, when I looked at my iPod, that I realized what had happened.
The girl who’s phone was used to take our photos had immediately posted them on our Book Club’s Facebook group chat. Two of the girls who had not been able to come to the meeting had seen the photos and had responded with well wishes and regret at not being there. Even though we were not all together, thanks to technology, we were still connected.
I don’t think we are doing badly at all at learning how to manage our technology considering smartphones have only been around since 2007. That’s not a lot of time to adjust to such life-altering technology. We are making progress.
Can we do better? Yes, and I believe we will. But whether or not we are more connected or less during this transition phase is up to us.
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan