Does too much technology, with our smartphones especially, interfere with the quality and the personal connections in our lives? Do we concentrate less because of the unceasing demands of our digital devices?
I’ve just finished reading Jonathon Safran Foer’s December 2016 article, Technology is Diminishing Us, and he makes thoughtful points about how, despite the good things that 21st Century digital devices bring to our lives, they can also diminish our daily emotional responses and contemplative experiences. The author reflects, with a personal emphasis, on digital distractions that increasingly disrupt of face-to-face communication, and his ideas connect well with the conclusions that Massachusetts Institution of Technology professor Sherry Turkle shares in her books Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversations,also well worth reading.
Foer, whose essay appeared in The Guardian, notes that early on technological innovations aimed to help people more easily accomplish daily life tasks — telephones replaced letters, answering machines supplemented phone calls, email made communication even easier, and texting easier still. Each change or invention sought to help people communicate more efficiently and effectively (in theory). Yet all this ease of use comes with caveats. The devices that connect us to others almost all of the time and to unlimited information whenever we seek it, have become electronic busybodies, obsessively notifying, alerting, locating, and suggesting (even when we try to turn many of the features off) as we attempt to concentrate, interact with others, and get things done. Most of us do little to stop these interruptions. Continue reading “Without Moderation & Mindfulness Tech Can Diminish Our Personal Lives”→
These days we have so much debate about whether or not digital devices are decreasing our face-to-face communication and our quality of life.
If you are interested in this debate, check out a fascinating January 17, 2014 article in the New York Times Magazine. In Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart, writer Mark Oppenheimer describes how Rutgers University Professor Keith Hampton and his associates filmed the human interactions at Bryant Park — a New York City park just behind the New York Public Library— to discover how people interact in public spaces. In the process, researchers wanted to learn more about how today’s digital devices affect those interactions.
Professor Hampton based his work on the research of William H. Whyte, a sociologist who filmed people interacting in urban public spaces to learn more about their behavior and what they do. Whyte did his filming in the late 1960s and 1970s, calling it the Street Life Project. Studying the films, Whyte tried to discern what people liked to do, how they conversed, how long those conversations lasted and in what locations.
Read You Make the Call on Kids’ Phones in the Sunday, November 27, 2011 Washington Post. Written by columnist Michelle Singletaryand aimed at the parents of digital kids, the article examines the practice of giving children cell phones at younger and younger ages. The author believes that, in reality, cell phones are simply playful gadgets that easily confuse children about the difference between needing things and wanting things.
The beginning of a school year is a good time for families to set limits, explain rules, and in general, clarify expectations about technology use. Getting started in the fall, when everyone is off to a new grade and a fresh beginning, encourages healthy tech habits.
Depending on the age of your children, you may want to accomplish some or even all of the tasks on this list, encouraging everyone to think responsibly and become committed digital citizens.
Nine Back-to-School Technology Tasks
1. Place computers in central, well-traveled locations — away from bedrooms and private spaces.