Electronic devices and social media have become vital centerpieces in our lives. Occasionally, this truth is met with resistance, including statements such as, “People today are too attached to technology,” and, “You always feel the need to be connected…Disconnect!” The message seems to be that our computers and phones are distracting us from “real” social interactions.
However, these protesters often forget that the entity on the other side of this “connection” is not simply a vast and mindless world of Technology, but is often, indeed, a fellow human being. In fact, the overall effect of technological advancements has been to promote and enhance human interactions, rather than inhibit them.
Primarily, many common websites and mobile applications allow us to connect with friends and family in new ways. A prime example of this is the ever-popular Facebook, where our list of friends may contain people we knew from high school, college, travel and work experiences, and family members. By posting pictures and updates, we are able to show all of these people what is going on in our lives: activities we are involved in, milestones we’ve reached, new jobs, adventures, and opportunities with which we’ve been presented. We no longer need to wait until Christmas card season to see pictures of our family members or learn about important events in the lives of those about whom we care.
In this way, we are able to benefit not only from being able to share our own experiences with others but also by staying updated with the happenings of others. Especially as we go off to college and later move away to build our new lives, sites such as Facebook allow us to maintain these meaningful human connections, even in such a busy world.
A recent fad has also provided a unique method of staying in touch with those who are important to us. Snapchat is an application for smartphones and iPods that allows photographs to be sent, but to only be viewed for up to ten seconds after being opened. This spontaneous method of sending quick messages creates an interesting dynamic, in which the sender can show that he or she has seen or experienced something that has reminded him or her of the receiver. This provides the opportunity to reach out to a variety of people, without the expectation of an extended conversation.
New technological tools also encourage collaboration, something that is especially evident when partaking in group projects of any sort. The Google feature “Drive” allows for documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to be shared and collectively created and edited simultaneously, with features such as comments and revision history. Before this was available, group papers and projects were often completed by splitting up the work by page or paragraph and hoping that those separate pieces would be coherent when put together. With Google Drive, each group member has access to each of the other parts, which encourages better transitions and a big-picture perspective of the goal of the project. Members can even collaborate on the same part of a project at the same time, even from separate locations.
Finally, websites such as Tumblr or Reddit that promote the sharing of images, videos, and ideas have the potential to connect us with people around the world. We are able to see that others are interested in the same things that we are interested in, and to share our opinions and questions with these global communities. This encourages us to think harder about what we assume to already know, and to discover new interests related to our own.
The suggestion to “disconnect,” of course, carries complete validity, as time spent on one’s own can have great value. However, the blanket statement that “connecting” is unhealthy and unnatural is simply misguided, for what this new technology allows us to do is to connect with other people.