I came across an article in Real Simple Magazine, “Tangled Up in Tech” by Sherry Turkle that had me questioning our perceived need of technology. How much do we really “need” technology, and how much are we addicted to it? It’s kind of funny how, I, didn’t even get my first smartphone until over a year ago, AND I was one of the last people I knew to succumb to the seduction of a cell phone, but here I am; responding to every little burble that emits from my cell phone/smartphone to see what I’m missing even in the company of someone I’m with in person!
What happened to answering machines, voice mails, etc. people can ALWAYS leave a message. I’m not a doctor, policeman, ambulance driver, or firefighter so nothing is THAT big of an emergency that I need to respond immediately! It is also interesting that when I choose to leave my phone at home and not take it with me the shame I feel when my friends, in awe, say: “you’re not taking your phone?!” is overwhelming almost.
Turkle comments on the “fallout” of habits we are creating by always utilizing our phones, and some of those are: we have less tolerance for boring bits of life, and we are in the habit of continuously seeking stimulation. People are becoming less and less able to be alone with our thoughts. I even have children get worried when my phone rings, and I don’t answer it. I actually feel that they are stressing out that I’m not responding to this gadget immediately (I usually do turn off my ringer when I’m babysitting but there are times I need to have it on).
With the constant contact we have due to technology we aren’t teaching the fundamentals of being alone, and according to Turkle: “if you don’t teach children that it’s OK to be alone they’ll only know how to be lonely.” Another point that she makes is of texting we are becoming less and less comfortable with, not only, face-to-face contact but voice-to-voice. We handle potential conflict with text, hence the funny posts about break-up texts. It is easier to be cruel to people by de-humanizing our experience with them through technology.
Because of technology we could be learning, if we’re sensitive, that we have no greater gift to give someone then to be fully present, and attentive. Maybe we should stop using these tools to keep us from giving our complete attention to the people that we share real time with, and not pay attention to every blurb that spurts from our phones when we are in the company of others.