Technology is Not Killing Our Social Abilities


There are hundreds of articles floating around the internet that argue our phones, tablets, and computers are destroying our ability to communicate. None of us know how to talk to each other anymore; we can’t hold conversations and our attention spans are too short, they say. We’re too reliant on our phones, and we have no social tact.

Remember when people had conversations? Remember when people actually looked at each other? Remember when we didn’t need technology to exist?

There are the things that get repeated, ad nauseum, by technophobes and technophiles alike.

And I just don’t think it’s true.

While I agree we’re more attached to our phones than ever, I don’t think it’s because we’re all ruined souls who can’t look one another in the eye. I think it’s because we’re actually more social than ever.

Instead of chatting over the phone, we’re connecting digitally with one another, all the time. We’re texting. Emailing. Tweeting. Facebook messaging. Commenting. And yes, there are people who still talk on the phone. But with these new ways to connect, friendships can now cross city, state, and country lines. It’s easy to get in touch with your family and keep them clued in on your life. Relationships can now survive hundreds of miles of distance, and then some.

And let’s be honest – if not for social networks (and the fact that you can connect them to your multiple devices), would you really be talking with that girl who was in your science class freshman year in high school? Or that great-aunt on your husband’s side of the family who was always a little kooky? In some ways, technology allows us to connect with people we wouldn’t otherwise give the time of day – and that’s kind of nice, too.

As for those who argue that people are “always” looking at their devices these days – while on the subway or while waiting for an appointment or eating dinner alone – what else are we supposed to do? The times when most of us turn to our phones as a distraction are times when we wouldn’t be talking, anyway. Devices are fantastic for helping us pass time that would otherwise be “lost.” They’re also great for:

  • Fake-texting/fake-calling a friend when you really, really don’t want to listen to Chad from Accounting babble on about his Ph.D. For the thousandth time.
  • Sharing content with your friends. Sometimes, you run out of things to talk about. That’s how it is. But lots of stuff you see on your phone is easy to share.
  • Not having to make small talk. Our lives are not necessarily enlightened from conversations such as, “Crazy weather we’re having, right?” – “Yeah!”
  • People who hate talking on the phone. I hated talking on the phone long before cell phones existed, so texting, emailing, and otherwise communicating through the written word is a God-send for me.
  • Realizing that silence is golden. Sorry, but there is absolutely no need to be talking 100% of the time. People who lament the downfall of the “awkward conversation between strangers” seem to forget that. Sometimes, a little silence goes a long way.

But I get it: sometimes seeing your loved ones constantly on their phones is a buzzkill, especially if they prefer to look at their phone over looking at you. But that’s a problem with manners, not with the devices or technology. Prior to cell phones, there were still rude people, guys. They just read newspapers and chatted on the landline during dinner instead of replying to tweets.

And I certainly think we can all sometimes use a moment to step back from our phones. Unplug. Close out or social networks. Spend a weekend away. Pay attention to what we’re doing and really absorb the moment. Maybe watch what we’re doing, especially while crossing the street… or worse, driving. (Seriously, stop using your phone and driving!)

But let’s not fear technology or make it the enemy. Technology is great. Change is great. My iPhone is great, and you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

Photo credit Garry Knight


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