Social media like facebook and twitter. People become “friends” and “followers” and exchange vast amounts of information and personal details with each other, much of it mundane, little of it useful, and yet they really don’t know each other any better. Moreover, they “connect” online and have rapport, online, but are not engage on a personal, 1:1, interpersonal level. The internet provides a safety mechanism, a way to share intimate thoughts, say things that might be intended, but not actually forced to honor anything.
People can be anonymous with each other, not really honor the fact that there is a person on the other end of the computer, someone with feelings. There are certain behaviors which have become accepted because one cannot expect to much from the “internet”. The problem with this being that it is not the “internet” which causes problems, creates spam, fraud, makes dates that are not kept, it is the people who populate the internet that are the cause of woes.
PDA’s, phones, blackberry’s, i-phones, all of these devices are the new centers of attention, the focal point of many peoples interest, whether walking, driving, dining, chatting with friends. Many people are inevitably waiting for a call, an e-mail, or a text that might be important, more important than what they are doing at that very moment. Use of these devices robs us of being in the present moment, focused on the person or activity we are engaged in, and ultimately denies us the ability to truly hear and pay attention to whatever we are doing. There has been a spike of accidents of people with face injuries who fell while walking and looking at their phones and managed to hold the phone and not protect their faces! Legislation has been required to prohibit texting and driving as a way to lower the accidents caused while texting. A disastrous train derailment in Southern California was attributed to the engineer missing a signal because he was busy texting!
Multi-tasking has already been proven to decrease efficiency, not improve it. Younger generations in particular believe that they are able to do many things at once, whether working, reading e-mails while talking on the phone, cruising the internet while doing just about anything, always listening to music through earplugs (which are attributed with causing hearing loss in the entire generation due to loud volumes causing damage!). Go to any gym and you can see someone doing an exercise machine, listening to an iPod, and watching TV at the same time! now, which of those activities is really getting maximum focus? Is the exercise being optimized, heart-rate at the right level, form and muscles being contracted correctly?
Information overload is a pressing issue with the ever-expanding universe of information at our fingertips. The internet has been a blessing and a curse. Never before has the world been so “flat”, connecting people in diverse countries from around the globe with real-time communication, information, and sharing. Moreover, we can find out instantly what is going on with someone else’s life, download just about anything conceivable, know the minutest details about anything we want to buy, anything. And yet, when do we actually have time to think about everything that is in front of us, to digest what we have learned, understand it’s impact on our lives and the lives of people around us? So much of what we use and do has already been done for us, we just need to access it. before technology, people had time to write out complete thoughts, letters, poems, songs, and to invent, create, and to think. Today, we exist in snippets, “tweets” and the sum total of our lives needs to be captured in 140 characters because that is all of the attention that anyone can afford to devote to just about anything.
We have too many options, to many things vying for our attention, from incessant media on TV, cable, radio, print, internet, you name it–pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing, rotating, dancing banners, to text msgs, animated billboards, cars covered with ads, billboard being towed. Think of the movie Bladerunner and then look at major cities like LA and New York and you can see some of the similarities and the overwhelming intensity of imagery. We see, quickly process, and share those distractions with the speedometer, cell phone, radio, traffic, and God only know what else.
E-mail inboxes provide an increasing number of grabs for our attention in the form of spam, newsletters, surveys, offers, sales, and anything that can possibly be dreamt up by 1:1 marketers. Corporations are desperate for our opinion, from airlines, to technology companies, to even the post office! They have to know what makes us tick because sooooooo much has been thrown at consumers, that nobody really knows what will be effective as most marketing tools have lost efficacy.
We’ve lost the sense of community, knowing our neighbors. While I realize that this is not universal and may be more relevant to urban environments, I do think that part of this stems from the individual worlds that are created from personal technology. We can customize everything just the way we want it, and we don’t need to know our neighbors, care what’s going on with government (other than to criticize it), or assume any personal responsibility for that which happens around us. A wonderful quote I read that I think is attributed to wars and genocides is “a few are guilty, but everyone is responsible”. I think the antithesis of this is a barn-raising as done by the Amish. There, everyone gets together to help one family at a time.
The anonymity deadens our souls. We don’t really need to be responsible to anyone for what we say or fail to do, and therefore lose a bit of our humanity in the process. In a sense, even donating money on-line is an easy way to “support” a cause quickly, affordably, and most likely get kudos for doing so, without actually getting involved or doing something about it. We give to the homeless shelter, but do we actually visit the shelter and see who is benefiting from out largess? We criticize a war, speak ill of our government, but do we actually talk to a soldier or call our congressman?