On Technological Dependence in the Digital Age, and how to Limit the Power of Technology

On Technological Dependence in the Digital Age, and how to Limit the Power of Technology:

More and more people, of varying levels of technical prowess, are increasingly relying on technology to go through their day: doing research, reading news, publishing, communicating, networking, playing games, using the web, cell phones, social networks, web stores, email services…

The growing use of these services, however, raises many concerns – with most criticism relating to the lack of traditional interactions with people and our environment. The article above describes Nick Biton’s coming to terms with this fact, and notes that his proposed solution is to “spend at least 30 minutes a day without [his] iPhone”. I personally think this is too extreme, and simply impractical.

Don’t think I’m naive – it is clear today that many people find it hard to part with their technology. World of Warcraft as given  a multitude of examples of varying levels of addiction to gaming, for instance; Everyone these days knows at least one friend who can’t survive one day without logging in to facebook, to the extent of experiencing a sort of “withdrawal” when not being able to do so. In work, we hardly talk to each other face to face, with emails, phones, and VC systems making things simple, if a little less intimate.

As a very technology oriented guy, I enjoy these trends to a great extent – I love using facebook (I’m planning to write a significant post on social networks eventually), I read a lot of interesting material on the web, I greatly rely on facetime to speak to my mother and little brother who live abroad, and I don’t keep any physical document from my courses or day-to-day buisness, preferring to scan it. At work, I am in charge of finding technological solutions to any need in my office, serving in fact the force of change from the traditional to the new and “adictive” work methods.

Despite these facts, I still go out on an almost daily basis, meet people face-to-face both in my social life as well as my professional life (I never sit still for long during work hours, and have been known to come even to the call centers I work with). I don’t need that half an hour a day – I get far more, and have, on several occasions, spent several days “disconnected” without any dire consequences to my psyche. I don’t think I am special in a way that allows me to “disconnect” – my work is very intensive, many of my friends are abroad, I enjoy technology – I should be just as reliant on technology as Nick Bilton – I have actually grown into the digital age.

So what is my proposed alternative to the daily half-an-hour, or any solution that expects full avoidance?

In my opinion, the solution is to be aware of the role each technology plays in your life. As an example, I will go through my personal take on different methods of interpersonal communication.

There are many ways to communicate with other people – emails, social networks, phone calls and text messages. When first learning to use these technologies, I chose, rather than see them as equal alternatives to direct communication, to assign each a role in my life, that is partial to the big world of interpersonal relations.

  • In my personal life, Emails serve as good conversation starters, especially with people I’ve lost touch with. They never serve as a sustainable method of communications, and should lead to another method as quickly as possible (sharing phone numbers, meeting). At work, I use emails to help assign and coordinate tasks, but never to manage them.
  • I use Social networks for widespread updates – for instance, I see facebook as an ideal platform to announce to all my friends bad news, saving me the need to call each person and repeat the news by phone, a very depressing ordeal. I also use them to share digital information with my friends, and coordinate personal meetings with several friends (parties, events). I use forsquare for checkins. I use lastfm to share my music taste. My other networks serve as my professional voice, and personal resumes, not as communication tools.
  • Privately I use phone calls for simple coordination (let’s meet up). I will have longer personal conversations by phone with people I haven’t seen for a while, but always with the main goal being to meet face to face. Professional phone calls are a way for me to manage a task from a distance (based on email communications written beforehand), between when I am able to survey them personally.
  • At work and personally, I use text messages, for short updates and simple coordination – never for something important, whose delivery is crucial.

Most importantly, I never value any of those methods as much as direct conversations, and they can therefore never stack up to them over time. As long as I use them for their assigned tasks, they have merit and are useful to me. No one could work without mail and cell phones these day. However, from experience, using technologies beyond their tasks can lead me to lose track of what I want, or more importantly, lead to the message being lost or misunderstood

I apply the same rules to any technology I introduce into my life – I assimilate it into different niches in my life, but never allow it to replace regular human experiences. While this may limit my immersion into the content of the web, for instance, or forces me to take the time and walk between offices, it also keeps me from being dependent on the technology and allows me to stay on top of my life, even when the technology is unavailable, or irrelevant. It’s what makes me the master of the technology around me.

What can be done to avoid the tech dependence, or in extreme cases addiction? In my personal opinion, the solution lies in educating our kids and ourselves to recognize the boundaries of each technology, and how to use them best within these boundaries. This isn’t an easy task, as more services lack clear definition and can be used for several tasks – the iPad for instance, can be an e-reader, music device, work computers or music studio, Facebook is a social network, but also a platform for publicity, link sharing site, and for some a place to find new music – all depending on the user. It’s might be great from a technological standpoint, but the lack of focus is exactly the reason people get lost in it. Technologies such as the iPhone and iPad can have so many applications and uses that users that don’t give them a specific purpose can get lost in them – centering their lives around the technology rather than using it to help and enhance their lives, as it should! Older technologies did not have this effect – books and TV’s are passive devices, unlike computers, and have regulated content. Regular mail isn’t as quick as email, and doesn’t allow you to subscribe to as many sources of information. Telephone calls to land-lines don’t have the same availability as cell phones, and don’t have as many services as modern cell phones do. Technology in the past 15 years has expanded the use of various devices to degrees unimaginable before!

Awareness of this fact will help you to keep technological advances in your life in check, allowing you to enjoy life outside of their immersing world.

via tumblr http://vehpus.tumblr.com/post/15435847113 at January 07, 2012 at 06:39AM. Originally posted on http://vehpus.tumblr.com

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