Technology: The source of isolation

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by journalism student, Emma Schultz.

Photo Credit: Nora Viljaniemi

Technology is keeping people from communicating with each other. While we can see videos uploaded from halfway across the world, compete in video games against players we have never met, and even date strangers online, technology is pushing  us farther apart from those who should be close to us: our friends and family.

When people text, they lose sense of caring about what is happening in the present around them, and by doing this, they neglect their families and their friends. When families go out for dinner or to see a movie, they intend to spend quality time with each other, free from distractions. This is the time in which people can form deeper bonds with each other. It is the time to talk and, something that is now forgotten, listen. This is when people observe and learn about another person’s manner.

However, people use their smartphones much more than they should during these crucial moments. Teenagers often text their friends during dinner, explaining what is going on in their lives.  But, because they are so engrossed in their texts, they are not really present and aware. They did not hear about how their siblings’ days went, the news about their parents’ jobs, and possibly something as significant as the summer vacation the parents just finished planning.

According to an article in the Huffington Post titled “Is Social-Media Making Us Antisocial?”,  Brian Harke Ed.D. states, “Being present has become a notable problem as social media and new technology have evolved. It is my observation that when we become intertwined with technology or things like social media, we become hypnotized and fall into a techno trance where things like common sense, manners and awareness often get pushed aside.”

Technology allows people to forget their obligations of being kind to friends and family, and it also causes people to forget their social skills when meeting new people on a personal level.

The Philadelphia Magazine reported a Pew Research study conducted in 2011 that  says “thirteen percent of America’s cell-phone owners pretend to be on their phones in order to avoid interacting with people around them.”

Many people find technology to be an excuse for not socializing with others. When people feel uncomfortable, they deliberately whip out their cell phones to appear that they are ‘too good for the other people’, ‘too busy’, or ‘just not in the mood’. People do not understand that overcoming these uncomfortable barriers is necessary in forming a relationship, whether it is formed in person or through technology.

Whenever you must have a first real, in-depth conversation with a person, it is difficult, and it takes courage. By using devices to ignore this stage in forming relationships, people hurt their chances of finding friends. They lose the courage they once had to even participate in small talk.

Because they have lost their ability to communicate successfully with others as they used to, technology users change and act differently not only in person, but through their devices as well. People are able to release cruel comments online that they would probably not consider saying in person. How can anyone communicate or form a relationship with a person who is not being himself?

Forbes conducted a study (primarily using Facebook) in 2013 showing the effect of online relationships on real-world relationships. It was discovered that “one in five [subjects] had shunned a former colleague [in person] because of an online conversation-gone-bad.”

To prevent technology from taking over social lives, take a step back. Look at the world around you. Make conversations with the person sitting next to you in your first block class instead of diving into Twitter. Seize the moments you spend with friends. This can all be done by making one easy decision: ignore your device.