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Technology - What's harmful and what's beneficial?

Amophrast's picture

One problem I've been having lately: If "technology" diminishes the quality of face-to-face communication, why haven't other (older) technologies done the same? How DOES technology diminish the quality of communication?


- Types of technology used for communication

  • Computers
    • Webcam
      • Skype
      • There are people who I feel much more connected to when I can actually see their face and talk to them. These are usually the people who don't say much in texting or instant message, whether it's due to laziness or multitasking.
    • Instant message
      • I've had very long and in depth conversations in IM and I sometimes find it easier to collect my thoughts when I'm writing them down and can revise them and reference exactly what I said earlier. These conversations range from political and ethical discussions, romantic declarations, talking about mental health issues, etc. Particularly useful for things that are difficult to say out loud.
    • Email
      • I save a lot of my emails that have actual content in them. Some of my emails are questions like "Can I come over on Tuesday?" "Okay!" But others are more in depth, the same quality someone would expect from a mailed letter. The only difference is that free internet is easier to find than free stamps and thus is cheaper and more accessible.
    • Social networking sites
      • Facebook, myspace
      • More useful for seeing what's up in someone's life without actually having to interact with them. Wish them "happy birthday!" when Facebook reminds to you on their sidebar. Look at status posts, information about their jobs or education, relationship status, what events they might be attending or have attended, photos of them, artwork they've done.. and countless other information
    • Blogs
      • Blogspot, tumblr, livejournal, xanga
        • Other good way to see how people are doing without them knowing. Blog posts may be in a diary style or they might just be pictures of things they like. Oh, I didn't know you liked that tv show! Oh cool, so you're into poetry by this author?
    • Cybersex
      • Dating websites?
      • Is dating someone online satisfying? Is it an emotional relationship, cybersex, or both?
        • Is cybersex satisfying?
  • Phones
    • Phone calls
      • Anywhere from "Did you remember to buy celery?" to two hour phone conversations
    • Text message
    • Video/pic message
    • "Sexting"
    • Phone interviews
      • Can you get a good sense of someone's character just through what they can convey through voice?
      • Elimination of body language, eye contact, focus (fidgeting)
  • Letters
    • Mailing in resumes or cover letters
    • Slower than email
    • Pay for stamps
    • I can't read your handwriting!
    • Material object
    • Can send other material objects with letters (package, gift, stickers)
    • Decorated paper/stationary

- Who we are communicating with

  • Distance (geographical)
    • Down the hall or across the country?
  • Closeness of relationship
    • Are you very close? Are you drifting apart due to factors other than geographical distance?
  • Relation to person
    • Mother, father, daughter, son, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparents, lover, friend-with-benefits, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, husband, wife? None of the above?

- Access to these technologies

  • Is there an issue of class or cost that affects who uses which technology more?

- Speed of interaction

  • Can they type faster than you?
  • Can they text faster than you?
  • Is their internet connection better than yours?
  • Are letters being delivered on time? How do you anticipate the delivery of a letter without talking to them otherwise?

- Why have you resorted to using this technology?

  • Scheduling/time conflicts
  • Multitasking
  • Convenience
  • Price
  • Accessibility
  • Speed

Any thoughts?



Kayla White-Lee's picture

research project

I need help doing my research project in my reading class. can you please help me.

Soccer 35's picture

I think that new technology

I think that new technology is not very good. In a magazine that I read it said that people are on there phones so much. It also said that people have died due to not paying attention of there surroundings because they were on there electronic device.

phreNic's picture

what are we communicating?

I think that for a technology to be able to be used in multitasking, means that in some form it's use and or content must be brief.  No matter how intense a conversation we seem to have with someone via text messages, we will always whittle it down to the most abbreviated form that we think accurately conveys what we are saying.  But there is always a chance of losing meaning and understanding when not just messages themselves, but words and emotions have standard abbreviated forms.  What happens when the message is decoded very wrong?  Or even just slightly wrong?  How accurate do we care to be? 

MissArcher2's picture

be where you are

 I wouldn't say that new technologies diminish the quality of communication so much as the amount we use them diminishes the quality of community. It used to be that if you had a friend or loved one who moved or was apart from you for a long period of time, you wrote them a letter. That was a concentrated effort. You sat, you thought about the person and what you wanted to say, then you sealed it up, mailed it off, and turned to the people who were actually in your presence for community. Then you were able to talk on the phone, which was still a contained process. You talked, then you hung up and talked to the people who were physically in your presence. Now, it's exactly like cara says: "The nature of the electronic devices encourage the users to integrate technology into their daily lives, and to constantly keep a strand of their attention focused on them at all times." A new freshman might spend hours in her room on the phone, on Skype, emailing, texting, Facebooking and g-chat-ing her friends and relatives from home. That means she doesn't talk to her roommate, or sit in the common room doing homework and strike up a conversation with a new person she hasn't met.

Obviously, the means to stay connected to people we know and love can be a wonderful thing. Are we maintaining our distant relationships at the cost of forging new ones? 

cara's picture

I think the same traits that

I think the same traits that allow newer technology (computers, cellphones, etc) to help us become more efficient and more broadly connected also diminish the quality of face-to-face communication. more so than older forms of technology (letters, home phone)  because older technologies do not enable multitasking and portability as much as newer technologies do. Cell phones, laptops, notebooks and tablets are constantly evolving to be more convenient, easier to take along with you where ever you go and encompass as many functionalities as possible into one device. Which I think wasn't really something that was seen before personal computers. You would never see someone talking on the phone instead of the cashier or the person they came to the store with before cell phones, as home phones never left the house. Same for letters, the physicality of writing on paper, the lack of an backspace button, naturally necessitates out thoughts to be well thought out before hand, a trait that is not conductive to multitasking. The nature of the electronic devices encourage the users to integrate technology into their daily lives, and to constantly keep a strand of their attention focused on them at all times.

So I would say the "Who we are communicating with" point is important, and tied into the idea you mentioned about Facebook allowing you to "see what's up in someone's life without actually having to interact with them". I think it does allow us to keep up connections with friends who we cannot be geographically close to much easier than before. So, no I may not be best friends with all my friends on Facebook, but if we didn't have Facebook I don't know that I would be able to keep in touch with some of them half as much as I do now. I would say much of the fear regarding technology alienating us from each other is, not unfounded but perhaps overblown. It allows us to maintain distant relationships much easier than before so naturally people nowadays how more 'distant friendships', but I also still have close friends that I can communicate effectively with both face to face and virtually.

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