Because I am lazy and don’t have the energy to write a post about my weight loss (or lack thereof), please enjoy this essay I just submitted to a communication research journal on campus. And then – DISCUSS!
Alyssa A. Lofgren Curran
Getting a hand-written letter in the mail is better than getting a text. Seeing someone smile in real life is better than a tiny, digital emoticon. Seeing your friend on your doorstep is better than hearing the phone ring – but as our world changes, we’re accepting these things as fundamental shifts in the way we communicate. The handwritten letters become less and less frequent, the emoticons replace smiles, and somewhere along the line, we became okay with that. The way that we express ourselves, the way we show emotion – the way we live – has all changed.
Are these new forms of technology the ultimate evil? Some people would like you to believe they are. Throughout history, new technology has always been feared. When TV came out, people had the same concerns they have today: children would no longer know how to communicate, every word that came out of their mouths would be from a commercial or a poorly written sitcom. Now we worry that our kids won’t know how to talk to each other because they rely on short, badly spelled messages to do their talking – instead of actually, you know, talking. Seeing headlines about babies that drown while their mothers play Farmville doesn’t help new technology’s case either – nor do the countless suicides committed by bullied youth online. But I have hope. I have hope that with the right education, these new technologies don’t have to be considered evil. Anything new will always be kind of scary, because it’s unknown.
Some of us have become digital slaves, always at the beck and call of the electronic leash, forever waiting for the ping of a new message, the lure of a new follower. When your gmail is bursting and you have a friend request from that creepy guy from 5th grade, take a step back, turn off the computer, put down the iPhone. Take a deep breath. Go outside and feel the sun on your face. That overwhelming feeling is a creation of effective digital marketing – one that makes us feel that if we’re not always connected, we’re missing out.
Rather than working to keep up with technology, we need to make technology start to work for us.
In the weeks after the people of Egypt overthrew their government, social media was lauded as the hero of the revolution. What people don’t understand about social media, the Internet or new technology, is that they are tools to aid a revolution. They are not the revolution themselves. If we want to give all the credit to 140 characters or a popular Facebook page, fine, but I prefer to think that these revolutions are the result of groups of passionate people, fighting for what they believe, fighting to make change. While the power of networked technology is undeniably impressive, we can’t forget the power of the people.
I think these are people that would have made the revolution happen no matter what – with or without Google Talk, Twitter, or Facebook. These are people that are sick and tired of just standing by, of letting the corruption, the unfairness, the injustice continue to thrive and exist. Social media helped elevate their cause and spread awareness. It gave them a louder voice in a time when it was hard to hear above all the shouting – but they always had that voice, just like we all do.
We control our own destiny – and we need to stop letting the obsession with new technology control us. It will be there for us tomorrow. I have hope that with the right education and awareness, we can find a happy medium between being hyper- connected and being out of touch.
Technology isn’t something to be feared – it’s something to be educated about. It doesn’t have to control our lives. It can help us or hinder us. But by being aware of how important communication really is, we’ll know when it’s appropriate to go digital, and when it’s not. A face to face conversation will always be more meaningful than a few lines of text on an illuminated screen. By remembering that technology can serve as a convenient tool for communication rather than replace communication as a whole, we can better understand how to make it more effective and less misunderstood. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the needy technology in your life, remember that it’s a choice – not a requirement.