Technology - Is it pushing people apart?

[Opinion, with a lot of "fact"]

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Technology - Is it pushing people apart?

Posted 28 September 2009 - 03:58 PM

NOTE - This was originally a homework assignment for my humanities class, however I have deemed it relevant to what we generally discuss here on the forums and am thus posting it for everyone to read over and contibute to (I won't be using any additional points posted in the paper so feel free to post your mind).

As always, this is meant to be a discussion, and I would prefer if it stays on topic, but I also understand that some key points take a small detour, so feel free to respond as you see fit. I may add a few other (short) articles to this thread as it goes to show additional points.

NOTE - It was an argumentative paper with the max of 4 pages (double spaced, 12pt font), so don't judge it too harshly on not getting all the points developed.

Well, here it is:

Quote

Although the increase in technology throughout the world has allowed people to get in contact with each other no matter their relative locations it also brings up problems when people no longer have that digital interface to each other. Certainly people shouldn’t get to the point that they are incapable of speaking to each other without the aid of technology, and social occasions to aid in continued human interactions. However technology does become problematic when you have a social situation and none of the people are talking together, but are instead chatting on their cellular devices, or texting a friend who isn’t present. Thus, the rapid development of technology and widespread usage it has received leads to the decline of human interaction through altering the way humans spend their free time, purchase consumer products, and work.

Human beings have, for a long time, been social creatures in nature; the invention of language, the written word and artistic values are a testament to that fact. As technology began to play a larger role in everyday life very few stopped and contemplated the impacts of the technologies on human culture, and history. This is not, however, to say that nobody has thought of the impacts, both negative and positive, of technology and attempted to alter the course of history based on their observations. Jeremy Rifkin has noticed an unsettling correlation between the amount of time people spend using technology and their social lives, stating “Only 31 percent of college graduates today are proficient in English literacy, compared with 40 percent just a decade ago.” (Rifkin) This means that the more people begin using technology the higher the chances that they will begin forgetting some of the life skills required to be successful further down the road. If people are unable to read proficiently there is no way of knowing what has happened to their spelling (when not aided by a spell-checker). Rifkin goes further on to say “Worse, it seems the more connected we are in our electronic landscapes, the lonelier we find ourselves. A study by the Kaiser Family Fund showed that American children now spend an average of 6.5 hours per day watching television, surfing the Internet, text messaging and playing with video games and other electronic media. More worrisome, the study found that most children interact with electronic media alone.” (Rifkin) This brings up the point that technology allows us to connect with people who live across the world, or out of the state, but it also enables us to be completely alone in a room filled with people. There is no longer any rule by which humans in a social environment must be doing anything social at all. They can all just be minding their own business playing on a portable device or phone. Presentations, movies, and numerous other activities are commonly disrupted by the ring of a cell phone or someone using a portable device to work while in a public setting. Steven Levy shares how a presentation becomes difficult at best to work through given today’s technology in this excerpt “She couldn't have picked a more perfect audience. During the presentations the faces of at least half the crowd were lit with the spooky reflection of the laptops open before them. Those without computers would periodically bow their heads to the palmtop shrine of the BlackBerry. Every speaker was competing with the distractions of e-mail, instant messaging, Web surfing, online bill paying, blogging and an Internet chat "back channel" where conferencees supplied snarky commentary on the speakers. Stone nailed the behavior so precisely that some audience members actually raised their faces and started listening intently.” (Levy) Now, with technology being what it is humans must take the next step and invent ways to not become completely independent creatures; some semblance of interaction must be preserved.

Human interactions in social scenes are not the only portions of everyday life that have undergone a huge transformation as of late, but purchases have also been plagued by the increased usage of newer technologies. Humans are straying from the tangible, no longer carrying paper currency except in small quantities and racking up credit as though it is something without consequence. No longer is a cash deposit adequate means of booking a motel room or plane ticket. In the growing era of technology each and every person needs to have a credit card just to be able to purchase items that they wish to procure. Credit cards lead to debt as they allow people to spend what has yet to be made. As Rave Ramsey states in the “Town Hall For Hope”, if the people of the United States were to look back a few generations they would see how poorly debt was looked upon. It wasn’t socially acceptable to have debt, and many large corporations were not even willing to give out credit. In the case of Kohl’s, it wasn’t until after Max Kohl died that the company began offering the Kohl’s Card. That was because Max Kohl looked very seriously at debt and didn’t want to be the engine used to put people in, what was at the time seen as, a position of sin. (Ramsey) (Wikipedia) Given the past views towards debt it is odd that today people would be so willing to go into debt just to purchase on more object of ‘necessity,’ David Haugen and Susan Musser state “In short, for most of us a credit card, considered as a consumer "technology," has become a de facto necessity. Even if one chooses not to borrow against it, it serves as a signifier of trustworthiness, and its widespread use makes its possession a necessity for anyone who wishes to participate in a wide variety of transactions, including transactions that could formerly be conducted without it.” (Haugen and Musser) Money has moved on from being a tangible object to a digital representation of a floating point value, no longer does its meaning hold the same significance as it once did, no longer is its weight familiar.
In today’s society people are expected to work all throughout the day even when at home based on the whim of their boss or boss’ boss, and given the current technology it is a very possible, in cases even common, proposition. The way computers are able to connect remotely to a desktop or server through the internet makes them a great way to have people work remotely even on vacation or when they are supposed to be spending time with their families. As people are spending time working on some project that their boss told them to get an early start on they will be unable to spend time with their loved ones and will have little interaction with other people while working from a remote desktop. To think that people would be praising technology for how it has revolutionized the world is a bit astounding when looking at how it has deteriorated the foundations of human interaction. One quote which exemplifies this point fairly well is said by David Haugen and Susan Musser, ‘Lawler contends that balancing the good and bad aspects of technology is becoming more difficult if not impossible because people are so driven by the desire to constantly innovate and build tools to do new things that humanity has lost its perspective on the value of technology. "We find it almost impossible to judge how much and what kind of technology would be best for us," Lawler states. "In principle, we should be free to accept or reject various technological developments. Technology, after all, is supposed to be means for the pursuit of whatever ends we choose. But, in truth, it might be our destiny to be moved along by impersonal and unlimited technological progress."’ (Haugen and Musser) Technology has got to the point where it is, and forever shall be an integral portion of human interaction, regardless of those who are opposed to it.

As with every argument though there are parties opposed to the current thoughts who are actually relieved at how technology has altered human interaction. Technology can be a great way to increase the possible interactions that those people with head wounds can obtain with the rest of the world. One study done by a Russian scientist, by the name Alexander Luria, theorized that “that a person can transform weak areas of the brain through repetitive and targeted cognitive exercises, and she was right. Today, this notion of brain plasticity--which she intuited three decades ago--is established wisdom in neuroscience.” (Lianne) Given the promise that this study, and many others like it is showing it is a wonder that people would consider technology to be harmful to human interaction, but that doesn’t change what it is accomplishing in other aspects of everyday life.

While humans are no able to communicate over great distances they no longer interact on the same levels they once did. Now each and every person is competing for the attention of another over technology and someone at a distance who just wants to get a quick word in with the person. Technology is being used to poison human interaction, slowly but surely killing off what little semblance of normalcy human lives still hold. Work no longer has set hours, but a person can be called upon at any time to accomplish some goal their boss deems important, even when it is taking away from that person’s life. Technology is indeed destroying old fashion human interaction.

Works Cited
27 September 2009. 27 September 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohls>.

Haugen, David and Susan Musser. Opposing Viewpoints: Technology and Society. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007.

Levy, Steven. "(Some) Attention Must Be Paid! Carrying a BlackBerry is admitting that your commitment to your current activity is only partial." Newsweek 27 March 2006: 16.

Lianne, George. "Dumbed down: the troubling science of how technology is rewiring kids' brains." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center 17 November 2008: 56-60.

Ramsey, Dave. Town Hall For Hope with Dave Ramsey. 2009. 27 September 2009 <http://www.townhallforhope.com/>.

Rifkin, Jeremy. Electronic Interaction Is Making Americans Less Literate. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008.


Enjoy.

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