Saturday, August 18, 2012

Drawbacks of Technology: Connected, but alone

By Abderrahmane Alamrani
Oujda, August 15, 2012
Everyone is getting text messages all the time, from friends or family to wish the recipient good luck in an exam or to remind them of something. Getting text messages may have a positive influence; it can even draw a smile on your face when you are at your most terrible moments. But the paradox is that too many of these text messages become a pain in the neck.
When the internet first surfaced, we were fascinated by the virtual world that came with it, chat rooms and online communities, which served and filled our need for a connection with people from all parts of the world. Now in 2012, we have Facebook and Google+, which means more people are online. Nearly a billion people are on Facebook, connected each day from their computers, tablets and cell phones. The use of technology has taken us to places we never really dreamed of before. Those small devices have changed who we are and what we do with them. Many things that were odd years ago are now familiar and even indispensable. For example, now I can receive and reply to emails during class or text a friend of mine about the course that I am taking. I can tweet or update my Facebook status simply from my cellphone. Teachers can complain about not having the attention of their students, but the case is simply that we are more attracted to typing and doing stuff with our phones than listening to someone talking. Those small devices distract us from whatever is going on around us. Consequently, we are constantly shifting our attention to the virtual world.
Does this really matter? We are just using those cell phones to connect, text and email each other. The thing that doesn’t appear to be here is how we connect with each other and, furthermore, how we relate to ourselves. We have become familiar with a new way of being in different places at the same time. We are constantly connected everywhere and we want to control what we pay attention to. For example, I want to go to class, but I’m not really interested in everything being said or there are only bits of information that interest me.
A recent study has confirmed that people do not want to be interrupted while connected with others; they prefer living in virtual communities rather than in the real world. They actually prefer focusing on their cell phones than participating in the conversation. The odd thing here appears in a study about social networks usage among high school students who are supposed to be teenagers who need to develop face to face communication. Not having the ability to have a conversation with others can become a serious problem. What seems to be normal now for an adult, may not be right for an adolescent.
Having a conversation can become a problem, but how? Having a conversation requires a real place, and it is in real time, and one may not be able to control what is being said. On the other hand, using devices may give one the ability to control what one wants the others to know, as one can edit, delete, or retouch one’s thoughts. Everything else becomes irrelevant as the body, and the expressions lose their importance. Moreover, human relationships eventually lose their richness and complexity. We are sacrificing a real conversation for the sake of virtual connection. We learn nothing about each other with those texts, emails and instant messages. They may solve a lot of communication problems, but too much use of them has become a real problem.
We think that if we get what we want, we will be satisfied. We want to have a conversation, to share ideas or just to talk, but we also want the ability to control what we say, to have the ability to retouch it. As a result, we lose confidence in our ability to learn from our mistakes. This is just another way to see where this is going. We prefer using machines to communicate; eventually, we prefer to have a conversation with machines rather than with real humans. Now, cell phones with voice assistance are being shipped, which makes us now able to tell those small devices what to do with just our voice. As a result, the voice app will learn how to intelligently reply to us, thus develop the ability to have a conversation with us, making it easier to lose the connection with other people, only to live a fantasy with a machine. This is an illusion derived from fear of intimacy, enjoying companionship without the demands of a real relationship, providing us with a comfortable control, yet denying us the luxury of the real thing.
The way we use technology defines us, our thoughts and the way we share them. Before, when one needed someone, one just called them. Now, on the other hand, when one wants to feel something, one just calls someone else. That’s not truly us, not anymore. We sacrifice conversation for a mere connection.
The intensive use of technology to communicate with each other rather than having a real conversation in real time has made us lose the vagueness of human relationship and the way we learn about ourselves and the people around us. But there is still hope, we can fix this. It is not easy but not impossible either. We have what we need to start with: ourselves. The only thing left is the will to do something about it and start rebuilding the connection we once had with ourselves.
Edited By Moundir Alamrani