Is Technology Disconnecting Us?

Technology Moves so Fast!

Our society is continually and rapidly advancing in technology. We can get information and communicate with others literally in seconds. No more having to go down to the library, hopeful to find the right book in the card catalog, and hoping that someone hasn’t already checked it out.

No longer do we have to take the tedious time of writing letters to our loved ones, because now we have email, text and chat and can correspond with them, again, literally in seconds. We now have instant conversations in “real time”.

Because of these amazing advancements, we are more connected with each other than we ever have been. We can be connected all across the globe with a touch of our fingers, or the click of a mouse button.

Isn’t this just wonderful?

I think if we can be honest with ourselves, technology is in many circumstances actually removing us more and more from each other.

Let me explain.

The rapid boom of technology, specifically in the last 10 years, has everyone totally interconnected. This technology also makes it all too easy to commit or over-commit to our work and personal lives.

Specifically, things like social media, emailing and texting is replacing what little time we have that could perhaps be spent in a more meaningful way.

It seems that there is this need to always be “connected” with everyone and everything around us.

But is all of this so-called “connecting” even real communication? It may seem real, mostly because we’ve convinced ourselves it feels real. But is it really?

The Rise of Social Media

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Flickr, Pinterest, or whatever new social gem that will probably be invented before I hit publish on this article – it’s very possible that we actually are very “over-connected”.

But wait! Again, this is a good thing, right? … right?

Well…maybe not.

Recently I was at a restaurant, and I noticed a young couple sitting together. As I was enjoying my meal, I happened to notice that neither one was talking to the other. No small talk, no “how was your day?” no, “can you please pass me the salt”… nothing.

For their entire meal together, they barely even acknowledged each other’s existence. Instead, they both (in unison) stared at their phones, occasionally smiling or laughing, but not with or at each other. They were both completely absorbed in whatever “communication” was happening on their phones.  Were they connected? Perhaps, but definitely not with each other.

This left me feeling very sad.

These two people, who were out sharing a meal together, were completely ignoring each other, finding whatever bleeps and bloops that were happening on their phones to be more important than engaging in real conversation with each other.

And it’s not just about how we communicate with each other.

It’s often how we give these technologies priority over fellow human beings in our immediate presence. And how we also often give these technologies priority over our faith, and even the precious time we need to spend in the presence of God.

Bleep, Bloop, Bleep…

How many times has someone been talking to you, but you didn’t fully hear what they were saying because you were texting or surfing the internet on your phone or other devices, instead of giving that person your full attention?

How many times has your phone rang, and you felt it necessary (or even mandatory) to answer it immediately, instead of letting it go into voicemail, so you can focus on the person or task you are presently entertaining?

How many times have you committed yourself to daily prayer or spiritual reading, only to find yourself perusing your Twitter, Instagram or Facebook feed instead?

Having said this, I’m not saying that social media is evil, or that you should dump your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Even I admit there can be benefits to these technologies. Personally for me, I am able to keep in contact with my family members who live abroad much more easily. Before Facebook, we didn’t call, or write.

And now with my smart phone, I can quickly text someone a message like, “be there soon,” or instantly record ideas that pop into my head, before they fall into the abyss of my bad memory.

But even with these good aspects to technology, I believe the key is moderation. And I also believe that we need to remember that these technologies should never be chosen or favored over real personal conversation and communication.

I think we need to remember what is real – things like spending real, quality time with our true friends and family. And quality time spent quietly alone, whether it is reading a book, working with your hands, praying or conversing with God.

And when we’re enjoying this quality time, we should put down our phones and tablets!

How about only checking your social media accounts in the morning or evening, or limiting yourself to 20 minutes a day?

It’s my belief that technology, if not kept in check, will actually begin to wear us down, making us a bit numb to what is real. And often what started as a fun or entertaining way to pass time, slowly begins to take us hostage.

Hostage to what we might miss on our screens.

But if we can break the habit and become more attentive to the actual people and life that is going on around us, we can focus on living a real life that is more meaningful. A life not led by “likes” and “tweets”.

Try having more real connections – with friends, with family, with God.

And try carrying the load of your cell phone and other technology less.

Perhaps you’ll begin to notice that it’s often the things we reduce or even leave behind that help to define and shape us, even more so than the things that we carry.

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Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog, and is the author of The Quest for Virtue, both which focus on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.

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