No one can deny technology has made us smarter, more efficient, and even healthier. Medical technology allows for early detection. The internet gives us instant access to news and information. But whatever happened to human contact? We have become so wrapped up in the convenience of technology, we’ve lost the pleasure of interpersonal, social relationships. Our “plates” (don’t you hate that phrase?) are so full, we’re constantly seeking the fastest way to communicate and move along to our next task.
We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half their study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of PDA users check every single time an email arrives and a whopping 83 percent check email every day while on vacation.
- Texting is now an art of abbreviations. Our spelling skills and grammar are going the way of the dinosaur.
- Smart phones are now labeled “walking hazards”.
- Our phones are next to our forks at the dinner table.
- Many states have stopped teaching cursive, citing it as unnecessary. What happened to “thank you” notes to Grandma and Grandpa?
- Have you been to a meeting with everyone looking at their phones? How does that make the speaker feel? Unimportant? Probably.
- Next door neighbor children now play video games in their own homes rather than walk twenty feet outside and play with each other.
- The population of Facebook is higher than that of China or India.
- More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush. Read that again: scary, right?
- Grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter, famous for its limitation of 140 characters per tweet.
- We now have wearable technology on our wrists!
The statistics are scary. According to a recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children today spend up to 75 hours a week using technology gadgets. That’s 75 hours of time spent plugged into iPods, watching TV, using the Internet, and escaping into the world of video games.
Old fashioned criticisms? Maybe, but are we taking the easy way out and unplugging from human contact? Sherry Turkle, a media scholar who wrote “Alone Together” and “Reclaiming Conversation” claims that “the flight from conversation undermines our relationships, our creativity, and our productivity”. She believes that the ability to text and email allow us to edit our personalities and control how we want to be perceived, rather than who we really are. Take a few minutes and listen to her on TedTalks at https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en#t-406314
Human emotion is powerful and can’t be interpreted correctly through a text or email. Our body language, facial cues, and tone of voice all contribute to the conversation; when those elements are missing, it’s easy to be offended by a misunderstood remark or even a typo. Our smart phones are slowly driving us into isolation and while smiley faces on our phones are cute, they don’t convey the beauty of a smile or the sadness of real tears. Nothing replaces a mom’s hug, a shared memory, a family outing, reuniting with an old friend, touch and consolation when needed, or working out solutions in person via conversation.
Nearly two years ago, Scott Dockter, president and CEO of PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services Inc., decided to take Casual Friday one step further, and created email-free Fridays, where employees are encouraged to talk offline to resolve issues, by picking up the phone or meeting face-to-face. As a result, he saw an 80 percent email drop-off in the first year and noticed a reduction of unnecessary reports sent and excessive cc’ing.
Here’s a challenge: Is it possible for us to go on an email/texting “diet”? Is it possible to feed our souls instead with human contact for an hour a day? Try it … you may be surprised how good it makes you feel. What are YOUR thoughts?