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Look Up. Be Observant.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I can walk down the street without having to side-step a person sucked into their cellphone. Or have to tap on a stranger’s shoulder to ask a question because he is plugged into a media player.
‘Plugged In’ isn’t the right phrase; rather, ‘Plugged Out’ defines the ever-growing dependence of individuals interacting with technological gadgets, instead of taking part in social situations or being a productive tool within the community.
I am in favor of technology – I wouldn’t have a job without it. Technology can make us more productive and grants individuals access to information that would be hard to find without the use of the internet.
Technology allows doctors to detect and cure treatable diseases with a simple breath test. Peace officers can reduce crime in high-risk areas through analytical programs, too.
Computers, smartphones and the internet allow us to store photos and communicate with friends and family that do live within a reasonable physical proximity. Technology connects us in ways that we could have never imagined.
These advantages are great for the community, but let’s face it, how many people are actually using technology for non-entertainment purposes? How many people are using it instead of organically connecting with other people?
The misuse of technology is hindering the very purpose of its creation—productivity. The average American citizen spends 11.5 hours per day exposed to multimedia including television, computers, cellphones, and other devices.
The most common apps are YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. None of these lend to productivity. Then again, no other generation has had entertainment and work integrated into one system before. Google tracked its employees for one week and found that the average employees checks his/her email or Facebook account 37 times per hour. Mindless acts are leading to decreased work productivity and technology overload.
As individuals juggle the influx of information from emails, Facebook friends, and random web surfs, thought processes become fragmented and deep creative thinking becomes stunted. Boredom develops as people crave a constant connection with technology. When the desire isn’t immediately fulfilled, it leads to feelings of anxiety and restlessness.
Relying or misusing technology designed for productivity results in a “coming down” effect much like a hangover from drugs or alcohol. The brain needs time to recover before it can function at full capacity.
Reducing time-wasting is important, as technology seems to be a permanent fixture in our lives’, but what about its impacts on our social interactions in the real world.
Social relationships are the fundamental blocks of our community and the ‘Plugging Out’ phenomenon infringes on our abilities to communicate effectively with others outside of electronic methods.
Our ability to control usage of social media is to blame. Texting, tweeting, and facebooking (did I get them all?) reduces in-person social interactions, lessens romantic spontaneity, and cripples communication skills.
Being able to connect without having to go anywhere can create unnecessary social-anxiety fears. Sixty percent of social media users claim that they would rather communicate via social platforms than in-person because they are unsure of how to behave in a typical social interaction. This is alarming.
Instead of having conversations with people to get to know one another, individuals use Facebook or Google to hunt down every internet tidbit about the person. Five years ago, we would have labeled this as stalking, but now it is the standard norm. I guess we can say goodbye to late night conversations while lying out on the grass.
Romance? Out the door. If you are under 25 years old, you have probably never received a hand-written letter, although 70% of you would prefer one to a 140-character text. This is exactly why I don’t text and why my phone still plugs into the wall – with a cord. No text or FB message can replace the warmth you get from a person’s voice or the excitement of receiving a hand-written note.
Technology damages communication skills. How we communicate is largely non-verbal, but technology eliminates this feature. People cannot read non-verbal cues and the context of the conversation can be misunderstood. It disconnects us from authenticity. Shorthanded texting hurts critical thinking and language skills making it difficult to convey ideas.
The solution? We must balance our consumption to preserve organic social relationships and use technology to increase productivity without sacrificing our creativity. Treat technology like a bottle of wine; maintain a healthy limit of two glasses daily.