Is technology turning people into bad listeners? And by extension, is technology working to better or harm society as a whole? Many people are divided over the issue; while some argue that technology (specifically Cell Phones, Computers and AR units) is inherently evil and a bane to civilization, others praise modern advancements in the field of technology as the “savior” of modern civilization.
While both sides have striking arguments in their favor, I myself tend to believe in a middle ground that agrees with both—while technology is in some ways detrimental to traditional forms of communication— and is no doubt killing them— virtual or non interpersonal communication technology is striving to create a new form of interaction that, although it lacks a flesh to flesh meeting, has a much larger reach in regards to global interaction among humans.
Let’s start with the bad.
The most obvious reason that smart phones are wrecking interpersonal communication is its domination of the eye. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with someone who is scrolling Facebook or texting back Becky can notice the screen absorption.
It’s a popular expression, “the eyes are the window to the soul”—and predisposed eyes hint to a predisposed, uncaring soul. It may not be totally logical, but eye contact is a huge part in communication. It’s gotten so bad that some people even find they are unable to or have anxiety talking to someone face to face because they are so used to talking over internet. Scary stuff.
Not to mention, some people are going blind from using smartphones. A Spanish expert, Dr. Celia Sanchez-Ramos, has found the LED screens found in most electronic devices can harm the retina— the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to partial or full blindness.
Such technology has always dominated the eye—from the first PC to now. Recently, there has been a huge push to create virtual reality (VR) headsets for gaming and entertainment. Such headsets as Oculus Rift are dominating the visual senses and transporting users to other worlds. The video below gives you a little taste of what it’s like:
Although my first reaction is to say that these headsets are an amazing step forward for technology and entertainment, my cautious self worries for future generations who could become consumed by this entertainment device, using it singularly as tool for escaping reality.
Could the future of such headsets be an all body, all life experience like we are warned about in the Wachowskis’ 1999 film, The Matrix? Food for thought.
I want it to be clear– I love technology, always and forever. Although there has been a major shift in the way we communicate, we still are communicating. Something that many people overlook is the fact that technology has enabled humans to communicate to each other anywhere in the world, at any time of the day, instantaneously. This is astonishing. The fact that you can log onto Skype and see and talk to another person across the world is a feat that people use to only dream of—and the same goes with the Oculus Rift headset and other such VR simulators.
It is because of this capacity for global communication that we have seen a mass spread of ideas, information and knowledge. This knowledge is no longer locked up in libraries and heavily guarded by kings and queens of old, but is accessible to both the extremely wealthy and the incredibly underprivileged alike. This alone is reason enough to be a backer of the benefit of technology on humanity.
The fact of the matter is this—both sides are right.
While technology has created a humanitarian revolution, the grain of salt is that we need to check ourselves. Who will control how far we go, and stop humanity if the technology we create consumes us? Balance here is key. Coupled with healthy developmental skills— like making kids learn how to speak to another human without the presence of technology early on— we must realize that phones and technology isn’t bad. What is bad is if people never learn how to talk to someone face to face in the beginning.
While it most likely wouldn’t be our own generation that could face technological consumption, it is important that we tear our eyes from our devises and keep an eye on the future of technology.