How Technology Ruins Our LivesAUTHOR: Margaret Reid
From the time our grandparents complained about kids sitting in front of the ‘boob tube’ to our parents lamenting our interest in video games, technology has certainly taken a lot of blame. That continues today. In fact, recently a former Google employee made news with his statements on the dangers of social media and smartphones. He referred to these technologies as an existential threat. Is he right?
In some ways he is. There’s no doubt that technology has had a negative impact. We’ll cover some examples of that below. However, in the interest of fairness, it only makes sense to contrast those points with ways in which technology benefits us. This includes a takedown of some of the less helpful presumptions about use of technology.
Technology Has a Negative Effect on Relationships
The picture of a bunch of friends gathered around a table staring out their phones rather than interacting with one another is a popular meme. There’s even a hotdog commercial where the dad turns off the electricity in the house so that the family will interact with one another instead of their screens. Clearly the assumption is that technology has a negative impact on personal relationships. Is this true?
It can be. If technology is used to avoid communicating or dealing with issues within a relationship, that’s certainly harmful. This is especially true when people in a relationship are in conflict over the use of cellphones and other technology. The same can be said if technology contributes to someone in a relationship feeling ignored or isolated. Of course, in these cases, it’s pretty easy to swap out the word ‘technology’, then replace it with ‘working’, ‘golfing’, or some other activity that can also be taken up as a means of avoidance. It can be easy to blame technology when it’s just another incarnation of the same problem.
What is more concerning is the impact of technology in our expectations in relationships. Consider social media. Online, we tend to present the best examples of ourselves. That’s not what the people who live and work with us in real life see. In return, online we get reactions to our best selves. In real life, we get reactions to our real selves. Those reactions aren’t always what we want. As a result, it’s tempting to engage more online than off. Here’s an example:
‘Jody’ posts on Facebook that she is overworked and frantic. She needs something translated into a foreign language right away. That’s on top of the dozens of other things she gets done. She gets plenty of sympathetic responses and lots of accompanying emojis. What she leaves out is that she’s had months to do this, and her spouse has reminded her multiples up to and including sending her links to certified translation services. Now, imagine the response she would receive in real life upon telling her spouse that she had waited until the last minute to complete this important task. Likely the reaction wouldn’t be quite so sympathetic.
Then there are relationships that are formed fully online as well. Everyone has heard stories of extreme examples of catfishing where people aren’t who they say they are as well. However, there doesn’t need to be that level of dishonesty for things to be problematic. 54% of those who date online have indicated they believe there’s been some misinformation given to them when online dating. Even friendships that have formed online can face obstacles when those involved realize they’ve only dealt with the most carefully curated versions of one another.
Technology as a Beneficial Factor in Relationships
It’s important to acknowledge the problems that tech can cause our relationships. However, that should be balanced with some proof about the benefits of technology in relationships. Technology can absolutely benefit long distance relationships. Messenger apps, skype, app localization services, and facetime all provide people with the means to interact with one another in real time no matter where they are.
In addition to this, in spite of what the memes mentioned above attempt to communicate, friends and family members being in one another’s company while also enjoying technology isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, may rarely be a bad thing. There’s something to be said for quiet coexistence. For introverts especially, constant engagement can be stressful.
Technology Eliminates Jobs And Makes Business Relationships Impersonal
Whether it’s manufacturing, creating multilingual websites, or automating supply chain management, technology is reducing the need for humans to perform many tasks. This can result in job loss in some sectors. It can also create other sectors where there is need that isn’t being filled. This can have undeniably negative economic consequences.
As customer service processes become automated, some are becoming frustrated at the impersonal interactions they have with companies. This emerges particularly in situations where people are frustrated, need help, and are struggling to navigate these systems. They can indeed feel cold and impersonal.
Businesses Can Use Technology to Create Convenience And Better Experiences
On the other hand, technology can be used to create experiences that are more convenient and personalized. For example, thanks to technology multilingual websites benefits mean that customers from all over the world can shop at the same ecommerce store. Also, while someone in need of help from an actual customer service agent may be frustrated by an automated system, self service options can be a quick and easy way for others to get information, make payments, or update account data.
Even better, data and AI can help to learn and eventually predict customer behavior and preferences. For example, a website localization service can help companies implement on line messenger bots to assist customers in multiple locations. These bots can amass information about various cultures, then use that information to provide better service in the future.
It’s foolish to say that technology is only beneficial. It’s just as foolish to say it’s only harmful. Clearly it can have both negative and positive impacts in our relationships with one another. The same can be said when it comes to technology and business. The key may be in combining healthy wariness with a focus on using technology in ways that truly benefits us.