Over the course of this brief, but info-jam-packed term, a consistent theme has come out again and again: Technology is a tool that can be used for good or evil, and the more educated you are in using said tech safely and effectively, the fewer negative things will occur.
Moving into this week’s discussion, lets again put this overriding theme to the test, namely Have we become too dependent upon technology, and what we really need to do is unplug.
There are two thoughts that pop up in succession when I hear this: 1) That sounds like a great idea because I see so and so always on their device and it’s annoying to talk to them face to face; 2) If we all decide to bin our smart devices, then what? It’s not like this solves anything.
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that technology is ruining the way we as humans have built and maintained relationships since we began as a race, namely face to face communities of individuals. Sherry Turkle, is the mouthpiece for this view that we are alienating ourselves more and more through technology, and need to take a serious step back and reassess what we are becoming.
I can agree with her perspective to an extent. In my mind nothing is more sacred than quality face to face time with my family and friends, where we can have physical, face to face interactions where body language, an important part of how we as humans interact with one another, is in play. Check out Dr. Larry Rozen’s iDisorder for an in-depth look at this.
However, simply turning our backs on all the ills social media has caused to a variety of unfortunate individuals and groups will not make this issue go away, but in fact will allow said issues to proliferate. If anything, you are further alienating yourself from the world at large, like an older individual who swears off learning how to use a computer, then ‘contents’ themselves for the rest of their days watching the Weather Network and doing the same puzzle over and over. You are missing out on a lot, and have no frame of reference when trying to understand the way contemporary society interacts.
That said, there needs to be a balance put into place between how much screen time we give ourselves, and to be educated in how to do this.
Last fall, in ECI832, we discussed at length whether there continues to exist a dualism between ‘in real life’ or IRL, and the digital. Nathan Jurgenson’s ‘The IRL Fetish’ does a great job of digging deeper into whether unplugging is actually even a possibility, as in our current age, especially if we have been using social media to any extent, this duality between ‘real’ and ‘digital’ doesn’t actually exist. Rather, we are more aware than ever before of our ‘real’ interactions, and “to obsess over the offline and deny all the ways we routinely remain disconnected is to fetishize this disconnection.”
So, to conclude, I hope everyone, after taking this class, has been able to reflect and come to the same conclusion I presented at the beginning of this post, namely that education plays a role in creating a healthy balance, and recognizes the benefits of technology outweigh the potential negatives. As educators (and parents) we have the responsibility to assist our children to learn how to use the tech responsibly and effectively so they are able to independently make positive choices that will assist rather than hinder.