I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our society and how much we depend on technology. On how addicted we are. From drivers texting while driving to students texting while walking to even cyclists texting while cycling, we can’t put the technology down even if our lives depended upon it. Why not?
I believe the ego is to blame, rather, our need to feed our own egos. Social networks do just that – they provide an outlet for us to brag to our friends about accomplishments in order to get praise, to post pictures of quinoa, Indian food, or vegan dishes to let the world know which cultural subgroup we belong to (and that we’re better than you), and to post pictures of ourselves so people can tell us how good looking we are or how built we look.
To be honest I’m torn about all of this. My career is centered around and based on the very thing I’m sitting here bashing. My livelihood depends on technology too. I love it. I hate it. I love it. I love technology because it enables us to connect to others in different ways, yet I hate technology because it disables us from connecting with others in the purest and most meaningful of ways. We hide behind our Facebook or Twitter or Instagram accounts and forget what it’s like to really engage with real people.
I feel sometimes like society – that people – are becoming terrible. Maybe this feeling is just because I live in Boston, which is a much bigger city than what I’m used to and therefore the probability of seeing or hearing about an asshole or two each day is greater. Or maybe in all of our Facebooking and Tweeting we’ve forgotten what it means to be empathetic and have compassion for others. I’m talking about real compassion, not outwards-facing, surface-level, ego-boosting compassion.
I feel that technology is making us dumb. Rather than hashing out a disagreement or brainstorming answers, we turn to the Internet. Rather than think about something, we search Google. It takes fewer job skills these days because if there’s something we don’t know, we turn to the Web, or in my case Stack Exchange. And yet we’re all still so stressed out at the end of the day? This makes no sense to me. All of the answers we seek can be found online requiring only enough thought to search for them. I love it. I hate it. I love it.
I feel that technology has contributed to our lack of patience. We expect things immediately. If we search, we want results immediately. If we’re buying something online, we want it shipped to our home immediately. If we’re buying something in a store, we’ll wait in line in extreme temperatures for extended periods of time, or we’ll call in sick or take a personal day or leave early because we want whatever it is immediately. Patience isn’t required anymore. I love it. I hate it. I love it.
Lord Acton, otherwise known as John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
Technology has given us unimaginable power as a society and as a species. For better or for worse, it’s fundamentally changed us at our core. In some ways, technology has demolished the idea and meaning of a society. Although things appear to be about the collective, they’re really more about the individual. Self-preservation personal amusement reign over preservation and advancement of the communities.
I’m both excited to see where technology takes us in 10 to 15 years, but I’m also terrified. Will we use technology to better society, or will we use it to continue making our egos more important than our peers? Will we use it to enable people, or to continue to corrupt us absolutely?