My name is Jennifer and I am a techoholic. Today’s article is an opinion piece in the New York Times, entitled “The Flight from Conversation,” which was written by Sherry Turkle and can be found by clicking here. This article examines the impact of technology on society, and on personal relationships in particular.
For me, the slide toward my current obsession with technology was gradual. I was a late adopter of the cell phone and only gave in to the temptation to get a cell phone when I was training for the Texas AIDS ride, when I would ride 80 miles or more on my own on deserted farm roads and felt the need to be able to reach out in case of emergency. But the lure of technological advancements has grown stronger and stronger for me since that time, culminating in my current “Crackberry” obsession.
I realized the magnitude of this problem this past Easter Sunday, when I was at church with my husband. We had just gone up to receive communion and returned to our pew. There were a lot of people in church that day, as there frequently are on Easter, so communion was taking some time. All of a sudden, I felt the subtle pull to check my phone to see if the red light was blinking, which would mean that I had some sort of message – be it a voicemail, an e-mail, a text, a Facebook post or, even better, a Facebook friend request! I am nearly helpless in the face of that flashing red light; I simply have to check! I did deny the urge to look that day, but only because I knew that if I caught a glimpse of the blinking red light, the rest of the service would be torture for me until I could see what communication was waiting there.
Facebook and other technological advances have been a godsend for me in many ways. I have a complete aversion to the phone and rarely initiate a phone conversation. I am always grateful to my friends who live far away who reach out by phone to catch up; I almost never make that initial call. But Facebook has allowed me to maintain important friendships from afar in a much more effective manner than before I had access to this virtual connection.
And, just yesterday, I was able to catch up with a friend who I had not seen in years just because he posted that he happened to be in Boulder. These are some concrete benefits of technology that can, in my opinion, actually increase connections with friends and family.
But there does seem to be a downside to all of this connection; I should be able to ignore that flashing red light on my phone, when I am surrounded by people I love. And one has to ask whether all of these virtual connections really add to the personal connections that lead to a truly fulfilling life.
A few years ago, I received an invitation to my 20 year high school reunion. I was excited about the prospect of going back to Baltimore to see people who I had not seen in years. I am fortunate to have maintained close relationships with quite a few high school classmates, but there are other people that I have not stayed in contact with, and with whom I would love to reconnect. As my high school friends and I were debating whether to attend the reunion, one of our friends said that he felt that he was already connected to our classmates through Facebook. It turned out that I was unable to attend the reunion, but I couldn’t help hoping that Facebook made the conversations at the reunion more meaningful, enabling people to get beyond the “Where do you live? What do you do? Do you have any children?” conversations and onto meatier topics that could lead to true connections.
So, on this picture-perfect Earth Day, when the universe (at least in Boulder) has chosen to display the wonders of nature in all their glory, I challenge myself and all of you to see if we can find ways to disconnect from our technology and connect more with nature, with neighbors, with our family and friends. Let’s take a stand and scale back our use of technology in whatever way would be meaningful for each of us. For me, that might mean leaving the phone plugged in upstairs after 5 PM, so I can’t see that seductive blinking red light. And then maybe, with time, I will be able to see that red light and not even respond. That is the goal; that, and reconnecting with my real life. Happy Earth Day everyone!
Some questions for discussion: Do you share my tech obsession? Does this concern you or are you finding ways to make technology compliment your personal relationships, rather than replace them? If you have children, do you place limits on their use of technology? Are there things that have worked for you to encourage your kids to get outside more or to build more face to face relationships? How does this new connected culture impact the work environment? Do you have any tips for me or for others about how to wean off of technology without having to go cold-turkey?
Please add your thoughts! And thank you for reading.