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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Technological connection more resembles detachment

Published: October 3, 2014
Section: Opinions

Last semester, as I was scrolling through my Facebook wall, I came across a video that claimed it was going to change my life forever. I thought it was another catchy prompt title aimed at wasting five minutes of my life. I clicked, however, urged by a very skeptical curiosity and the addicting force of technology. It was that force of technology— that force that constantly urges you to check for social updates and other new information, that sticks you to your Facebook page and makes you skim over countless photos, videos, comments or links as a remedy to boredom, that makes checking your phone for texts a necessity to feel “connected.” The force of technology dominates the behavior of many of us today. However, the video I watched was worth every second; it was called “Look Up,” and it encouraged disengaging from technology. The video should be shown as an educational tool in schools and universities, for it makes a strong ethical remark about today’s life in relation to technology.

Technology as most things in life, has its uses and its perils. Social media, video chatting and instant messaging are extremely useful methods of communication. The problem is when we cease to use them as extremely useful communication tools and they instead become sources of attraction that control you and your behavior more than you control them. Detrimental consequences arise when these forces cause you to interact predominantly through technology.

Technology is devaluing physical human contact. As the video wisely claims, the technology that is theoretically making us all more interconnected is on many occasions actually doing the contrary; it is pulling us apart. Not only are we primarily communicating through a screen more than through physical conversation, but also the actual physical encounters that people are having are in increasing amounts being undermined. As people divide their attention between many others at the same time, conversations become less substantial. The quantity of our conversations is therefore having a negative effect on their quality. If you sit down to talk to someone, you are more likely to have a more interesting conversation with that person if other virtual conversations are avoided. For me at least, it is very annoying to have conversations with people who check their phone every minute.

The effect of communicative technology today is not only about having worse conversations. There are many serious consequences that psychologists, sociologists and other professionals have shown. The absence of physical relationships has been psychologically proven to make people more prone to feelings of depression. The more you decide to replace those quality physical relationships with a quantity of relationships, including virtual ones, the less emotionally fulfilled you are probably going to end up feeling.

This ties in with another phenomenon of social media and virtual communication: the false sense of socialization that they produce. When you look at your hundreds of friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, likes on Instagram and dozens of texts a day, you can get the illusion of extreme social behavior. In the long term, however, you should realize how preferable it is for your emotional fulfillment to replace virtual socialization with physical people.

Another interesting study that I recently encountered in my psych class talks about the negative consequences of multitasking while exercising. As a consequence of the domination that technology has over our behavior, it is common to see people that work out checking emails, texting and watching videos. Neuroscientists contend, however, that it is much healthier to exercise without concentrating on information, because this allows the brain to process more efficiently and form new memories from information retrieved beforehand. The constant need to intake information therefore goes against the nature of our brains. I encourage you to stare away in thought more and fill less of your time with technology.

When you feel that attraction to virtual sociality, stop and think: Is it really what I want to do right now out of everything that I could be doing, out of all the new feelings, the new pleasures, the old pleasures, the new experiences and the old good experiences that I could be having? The answer depends after all on one’s view of life. How do we want to spend the miniscule amount of time that we have on this world? Is it worth it for you to look up?