High Tech or Hi Tech
- Kevan Lyons
I am lost in a world
That I do not know
For no one stops to greet me
Or to say hello
The spoken word has disappeared
Replaced by a machine
As people sit transfixed
To a computer screen
They text each other
On the train I ride
Using passwords and names
Their identities to hide
Have we got to the point?
We’re always on the phone
What is so important?
We cannot be alone
The art of conversation
Has begun to fade and die
Most of us have given up
We do not even try
It is all the rage
This social media trend
I wish it would all crash
Coming to an end
So as I look about
I begin to realize
If we all turn into robots
It would be no great surprise
Though it may be
A very useful tool
I will not let it govern
Or my life let rule
For most, technology is indispensable in cultivating relationships. Technology in one form or another has always influenced relationships. And If technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines and techniques, in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function then stone age etchings in caves were our earliest uses of technology to tell our story, to share a part of our lives.
When Egypt developed the earliest form of paper our ability to share improved significantly.
Lets remember that technology in one form or another allowed for the recording, preserving and communicating of Scripture.
The arrival of the printing press significantly shaped how we communicate and form relationships.
With electronic technology we are again compelled to re-jig how we communicate.
Rogers Canada just completed a survey on the impact of technology on relationships
Women, significantly more than men, felt strongly about the use of technology to manage relationships with their friends, families and partners. It helps them to avoid anxiety and positively benefits their overall lives.
Two-thirds of women (67%) cannot imagine their lives without technology as opposed to 49% of men. Fifty-six percent of women feel that staying connected with technology is essential to their well-being, while only 39% of men felt the same.
Forty-four per cent of women say it’s nearly impossible to go a day without connecting with friends compared to 28% of men.
One thing both genders agreed upon was feeling irritated when a text was not responded to within an hour,
Young adults spend two-and-a-half hours per day on average communicating with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Two-thirds of young adults (67%) state the availability of such technologies as texting, social networking, email and instant messaging allows them to have better relationships with their friends, partners and family.
Nearly one-half of respondents (46%) feel staying connected with friends are a top priority in their lives. A similar proportion feels that using technology to stay connected is essential to their personal well-being (47%).
Those of you who have been at Urban Bridge since the beginning are aware of how Joseph Myer’s book “The Search to Belong” has influenced how we understand relationships.
It is how the term smaller groups came to be.
He talks about the various myths of belonging. He believes that More proximity = more belonging is a myth
“It is true that people who live in close geographical proximity may connect with one another, but “close proximity” need not be geographical. Consider, for example, the significant connections that are made digitally. Online bulletin boards and chat rooms, instant messaging, and mobile phone text messaging do not require close proximity to establish significant connections among people.“ Joseph Myers book The Search to Belong
That is a strong endorsement for the use of technology to support relationships.
So lets have another perspective
Sherry Turkle is the Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. Her expertise is in mobile technology, social networking, and sociable robotics.
She invites us to consider is the human cost of our social media engagement which seems all the more relevant as networks like Google+ and Facebook arm us with new tools to become even more effective online storytellers inspiring us to spend more time there.
SM: Hi I’m Simon Mainwaring, here at the IVOH World Summit in the Catskills, New York, and I have the great pleasure of being here with Sherry Turkle, who is the professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, and the author of the critically acclaimed book, Alone Together. It is such a pleasure to chat with you, Sherry. Thank you for your time. Now, one of the things I talk about when it comes to social media is that I believe that technology is teaching us to be human again, yet the thesis of your book might actually go against that proposition. Do you think that’s true or not?
ST: I think that’s a complicated story. That is to say, we are now using technology in some ways that are distancing us from each other, but I’m optimistic because I think so many of us are starting to realize that something is going amiss when we have dinner with friends and everyone has a phone on the table and interrupts conversations in order to take those calls. When I walked the dunes of Cape Cod that Thoreau walked, and everybody is walking those dunes with their heads down to those devices, something is going amiss. When everyone is answering emails instead of talking to colleagues at work, something is going amiss. So it’s good, but we need to make it good for us.
SM: What would you say is being lost, and what is the cost of that?
ST: Well, I’ve interviewed hundreds of young people and hundreds of older people and I think that one of the things that is being lost is the ability to tolerate solitude. In my own studies I call it, “I share, therefore I am.” That is to say, you go from a position where you say “I have a feeling, I want to make a call,” to a position where you say “I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text.” So what’s being lost is the ability to experience your thoughts and feelings without immediately sharing them and you lose the capacity to collaborate because collaboration is infusion. You need to come to collaboration with a sense of self, with your own ideas and confidence in yourself. You lose the capacity for certain kinds of leadership because, again, leadership requires an ability to lead, not just to poll.
SM: So you feel like we’re losing the ability to be present because we’re in such a hurry to pass on that experience that we almost cut ourselves out of the equation.
ST: Yes. And we’re substituting connection for conversation. I think that’s very important. This move from conversation to connection, and we’re almost forgetting how nurturing conversation is. Over and over I’ve interviewed people who basically tell me “Don’t call.” In Alone Together I have a chapter titled Please Don’t Call. The last thing they want is a telephone call. It would take too much time. It’s too dangerous. Too much might show. They don’t want to be interrupted. It’s easier to send an email or send a text and not have the risks of showing themselves in a conversation.
SM: Would you characterize this as a function of the need to now live in public at all times, to always be “on”? Is that the challenge that we’re all facing now, because, given the opportunity to do it with social media and these other platforms, we feel obligated to do so?
ST: There are several things. We’ve given ourselves an opportunity to hide. Social media, for all of it’s bounties—and I’m very enthusiastic of all the bounties of social media—it also gives us an opportunity to hide. We perform ourselves on social media, and that is different from being ourselves on social media. That ability to perform yourself is also an ability to hide. It leads to something that I call “Fear of missing out.” You’re always watching what other people are doing and you being to be jealous because their showing their best selves and you’re showing your best self. You almost become jealous of the life you live on Facebook. You have to remind yourself that it’s your life because you’re showing your best self.
SM: Let me ask you a question about that. How different is that to the version of ourselves that we present in the real world, albeit only to one or two or five people at a time? Is it worse because we can reach a mass audience?
ST: No, it’s worse because…we’re sitting here together and, of course, I’m in a role and you’re in a role, but because we’re here together, certain things show. We’re animals, we’re human beings and, really, by the fact that we’re here together, we show ourselves to each other, we reveal ourselves to each other. On the network, we can fake it. We can perform ourselves in a way where there is a more polished self. I interview people who really describe to me the time and the care they take on what they present in their social media presence. It’s like we’re playing avatars of ourselves.
SM: If you had to characterize it in two ways, the long term effects on this, what is the best case scenario, the upside, and the worst case scenario. Give us the spectrum of consequence.
ST: Best case scenario… My favorite line in my book is, “Just because we grew up with the Internet, we think the Internet is all grown up, and it isn’t, and it’s time to make the corrections.” I think we’re at a turning point now where we’re ready to reassess and live a saner and healthier life. I think the corporate world is ready to be more attentive to the social and emotional needs of both its consumers and its workers. I think that people are ready to be more attentive to living a saner life in their online presence. We don’t want to be interrupted. So the plus side is that we’re at a moment where we’re going to be able to enjoy the bounties of this technology and minimize its cost. The downside is that we are somehow, just like there’s a fog of war, there’s a fog of technology. Teaching at MIT for 30 years, I can tell you that technology can make us forget what we know about life, and one of the things that we’re forgetting right now is the importance of conversation and of truly being with each other in the ways that matter.
SM: Yet you’re still optimistic. Why are you optimistic? What gives you hope?
ST: I’m optimistic because I think human beings want to be with each other and realize the nurturance and the sustaining effects of being with each other and communicating with each other. I think that there’s a movement I see in the resonance in my work and in the work of other people who are starting to have this kind of message, including yourself actually, that there’s starting to be a convergence in the corporate world and consumer world of realizing that these two worlds have interests that are starting to come together by using this technology in more humane ways, in ways that are better for the social good.
For her book http://alonetogetherbook.com
Recommended viewing: Sherry Turkle Connected but alone Ted Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html
So how do we best interface organic relationship with inorganic technology to improve relationship with ourselves, others and God?
I am rethinking the influence of Joseph Myers and “The search to belong” for my life and our community.
A significant connection may be part of being in relationship but it is not enough, to be fully part of a meaningful conversation we need to be present
The Apostle Paul understood the importance of physical presence. In his letter to the Galatians he says
I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Galatians 4:20 NLT
To the church in Corinth:
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. I Corinthians 4: 15-17 NLT
Paul understood what Marshal McLuhan recently stated – The medium is the message. Christ in his embodiment of human form lives this truth: So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. John 1:14 NLT
Proximity, physical presence, face-to-face real time conversations are essential. This is one reason why so much of my pastoral life is spent in coffee shops and restaurants. It is one reason why Cheryl and I host so often in our home
The time we spend chatting, texting, friending and tweeting with people online takes away from face-to-face conversations.
And It’s great that we have hundreds of friends on face book, but you really can’t maintain those relationships. According to “Dunbar’s Number” named after Robin Dunbar a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University, brains can really only handle 150 friendships. Incidentally, Facebook says that the average user has 130 friends.
“Is Technology Taking Its Toll on Our Relationships”? Ki Mae Heussner http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2010/03/is-technology-taking-its-toll-on-our-relationships/
I use blogs, email and social media a lot but it cannot replace face to face conversations. I have been active on social media since last August. I begrudgingly became a part of it out of necessity, to better understand, to better communicate with my world. Now I risk becoming another social media statistic.
I am one who puts his phone on the table
My head is often down, texting
To often I allow for email and twitter interruptions
I am one who is being seduced: I wanting to have the feeling so I give a status update
Nearly 40% of Americans spend more time socializing via the Internet than in real life.
I am not yet there
But I have done this:
Almost a quarter say they have missed out on important moments because they were, ironically, distracted by trying to share those moments on social networks. - ahhh the seduction of instagram.
But I am not yet this:
Nearly 20% say they actually prefer to communicate electronically via social network or text message than talk over the phone or face-to-face.
Social Networks: are they eroding our social lives – Sam Laird Social Networks: Are They Eroding Our Social Lives? [STUDY]
Some are responding by leaving the world of social media
Sam laird writes: what I’ve actually enjoyed about being off of Facebook that has surprised me most. I spend less time on my computer without Facebook’s source of infinite content. During real life experiences, what is or isn’t worth sharing on Facebook no longer lingers in the back of my mind, so I spend more time simply enjoying the present. And the false comparisons between others’ curated digital self-presentations and my own naturally widespread sources of pride, fulfillment, dissatisfaction and insecurity no longer exist. My Life Without Facebook: A Social Experiment Sam Laird
There is no doubt that technology shapes and influences us and that it has the capacity to support even improve relationships with others and Christ but to passively accept technology without an informed, spirit-led critique is a mistake.
Neil Postman writes in Technopoly – the surrender of Culture to Technology”
“A resistance fighter understands that technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things, that every technology from the IQ test to a computer is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or not be life enhancing and that therefore require scrutiny, criticism, and control.”
As followers of Christ we need understand those aspects of technology which may or not be life enhancing and require scrutiny, criticism, and control.”
Paul in the same letter to the Galatians shares the essential qualities of the follower of Christ : But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and …self-control. Galatians 5: 22 NLT
We absorb these qualities through relationship with the Holy Spirit and others of like spirit.
These qualities are caught as much as they are taught, and that means more than a meaningful connection.
Authentic, unfiltered real time relationship is essential, which is why physical proximity is important, and why conversations of more than 140 characters matter.
Technology unrestrained can interrupt undermine, even destroy these relationships so essential to our well being.
Thomas Brauer gave me permission to use this picture from his book the Devoted Image. reflect on the image as I share his devotional:
Coiling, and bending, stretching and growing, this plant first echoes it’s environment and then overwhelms it with life, as springs of iron are replaced with springs of growth, and naked wire sprouts verdant leaves. Thomas Brauer The Devoted Image-http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/347770
1 Pause and ask yourself before engaging technology: social media, texting etc. Am I doing this because
I have a feeling, I want to send a text or I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text.
2 Pause and ask yourself before sharing via instagram, twitter, etc do you risk missing the moment you are trying to share?
3 Solitude: Set aside at least one time to be without any technological distractions.