Why Technology isn’t Making us Less Social or Ruining Society.

Girl working an old style radio

Society is quick to point out when technology isn’t working, but here’s why I think technology improves our lives, and why we shouldn’t shun tech savvy opportunities.

Yes, technology takes away jobs, but it also creates them and gives careers international potential.

Many fear our increasingly automated world. I get it. Especially when it comes to jobs being at risk. But it’s all too easy to make an enemy of our changing world, without looking at the opportunities certain endings create. The thing is, in many ways, what we face now is not much different to what our ancestors faced, and their ancestors before them. Yes, you could argue the pace has picked up, but the need to adapt has always been there. If you don’t believe me, check out this talk by software developer, Sandi Metz.

If you let it, technology can enable you to break beyond what you thought possible for yourself and your career. As a young performer, when I should have been a poor and starving artist, I was able to set up an online business that allowed me and other performers to find work all over Australia. We didn’t have to rely on an agent to get the occasional gig, technology enabled us to cut out the middle man and make a living from what we loved doing. And our story isn’t unique.

These days, people are able to make money from home; which is especially important for people who might be reduced in their ability leave their house and includes people with disabilities, stay at home parents, carers etc. There are opportunities to make a living, where before there were none. More and more companies are opting to allow employees to work from home. In such cases technology allows more family time, more economic and environmental benefits (due to removal of commute times) and more money saved by companies otherwise forced to provide facilities for employees. In such instances, it’s clear that technology aids society more than hinders.

I’ll also add, that as a former employer, technology made hiring staff a million times easier. Sure, I’d use the usual professional websites to source staff, but also social media groups, Facebook and Google searches helped me track down the right person for the job. Skype provided a means to conduct interviews and run meetings, and I saved money on travel expenses. In my current other profession (as a singing teacher), I use Skype to teach students in Canada, the Philippines, as well as a touring artist in the U.S. who I tutor while she’s on the road.

I would never have thought any of the above possible 10 years ago.

Technology offers a new lease on life for those of us who might otherwise be lonely.

Recently while browsing Quora I came across a wonderful response by Stan Hayward to the question What does it feel like to be really old knowing that death is imminent?. His reply in part explores his experience as an eighty-four year old whose life is impacted positively by the internet. Stan gives examples of friends who enjoy active dating lives, and his own experience of running nine blogs, publishing multiple books and interacting on social media platforms.

With the internet etc. you will never be lonely in the traditional sense.

With the many advances in medical appliances and related fields you will be able to care for yourself well into old age, or will allow others to care for you much easier than now.

With home surveillance and the internet of things, you will be largely self-dependent, secure, and in touch with those you need to be.

As a matter of course you will become more aware of your needs to eat well, be active, and generally take care of yourself.

Your work will be less stressful than the past, and you will work shorter hours. There will be more activities for you to participate in and more social events for you to join.” Stan Hayward, via Quora.

Personally, I have friends and family living in rural areas, or in other countries. Where before we would have been limited to  letters every few weeks, now our communication is instantaneous and free (if you ignore the cost of internet access). Phone calls have been replaced by video chat, and email allows replies to conversation in our own time – rather than waiting around for a phone call.

Quote of technology

Technology makes it harder to hide social injustice.

Regardless of your stance on the riots in Ferguson, or even the ones in Cairo in 2013, the internet has made it harder for media and governments to cover up what many may consider injustices. In my own country of Australia, we had protests against the current government estimated to have topped 100,000 people, however in some cases mainstream media reported this number to be only 10,000. What social media does is help balance out the louder, mainstream voices, and shine a light on contrasting view points. There are now popular websites and blogs set up to offer differing views, and we have more choice in who to listen to.

With the rise of YouTube and camera phones, it’s easier for everyday people to record events as they happen. Information is spread at a lightening speed, which can save lives and sometimes topple entire governments.

Technology doesn’t have to make you stupid, lazy, antisocial or bitter.

Internet trolls are probably here to stay. I’ve dealt with more than my fair share, and they never feel good to interact with. But trust me, they are the minority and are easily ignored. Used well, technology can connect you with others, in ways you never imagined. Don’t let the haters break you down.

Similarly, although fluffy kittens and celebrity gossip can be an easy way to wind down, try to take full advantage of the excess of educational and informational websites out there. New learning is more accessible than ever before.

Technology is not scary, it gives you access to people outside your usual circles.

There was a time when online dating was considered desperate and nerdy. Although some people still see it as passé, I would argue that online dating is now the norm. What dating sites, apps and even social media have done, is open up the possibilities to meet people of all walks of life. And wouldn’t you know it, like most things that started out within the zeitgeist of nerds, online dating eventually caught on like wildfire.

Rather than say the internet has made us antisocial, I would say it has widened the scope for human interaction. I’ll admit, I met my partner online, and today our wedding celebrant told us the majority of her clients met online too. I can attest that if it weren’t for the online medium, I would never have met the wonderful man I’m about to marry. Our social circles were completely different, we lived on opposite sides of the city and we had no shared interests. If it weren’t for the internet, we might both still be single.

What I discovered from online dating was that it gave shy people an avenue for communication. By this I mean that my experiences at bars usually consisted of mostly drunk or rowdy guys plucking up the courage to approach, where the more introverted guys would hang back in the corners. I’m not the only woman to experienced this. Approaching a stranger in a social setting is scary and fraught with the potential of an embarrassing scene. The internet has removed a lot of the sting work out of this process.

But the social benefits of technology extend beyond the realms of dating, and sites such as Quora give the option for open discussion, as well as opportunities to interact with people from far flung fields including science, military, arts, and business. A quick online search can unearth communities of people with your shared interests, and one can interact both virtually or in person (as with the local and International writer’s guilds I’m part of).

The internet creates a social safety net for people to dip their toe into, it creates circumstances where we are not limited to people within easy reach; which can be pot-luck when it comes to quality. And let’s face it, when you find you’re reduced to dating friend’s exs or their siblings, life can start to feel a little incestuous.

People around mac laptop

But of course, there’s always a down side…

I understand why people take issue with technology. Not only can it be hard to understand, but it’s often poorly designed, and at times not very functional. Many people use their devices to escape reality and destroy real life relationships. But the things is, for as long as humans have existed, there have always been people who abuse certain privileges. The crux here is that it’s people who are the issue, more than technology. A stone cannot hurl itself, someone must pick it up and throw it in order to cause pain. Such is the case with technology.

While there are many problems with technology, let us not forget that it improves all the time, at a rapid pace. To insist that we scale back or restrict progress would be to strip certain liberties such as education, opportunity and community. Overall, technology improves our lives more than in hinders it, I think that is something worth celebrating.

 


Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

For updates on me, my articles and posts, please sign up for my new monthly newsletter. All details will remain private.

Image Credits: Alba Soler, Will Lion, The Internet Herself

Katerina Simms is a Romance Writer & Recovering Former Mermaid, born on a sunny Mediterranean island. These days she resides in Melbourne, Australia, where she spends her days writing novels and musing on her highly successful blog. For regular updates, feel free to Subscribe to her newsletter.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Neptunutation at 5:27 pm

    I have to disagree. Its my prediction and sincere hope that there will be a massive social movement against social media, the use of electronic devices in public and an equally massive taboo against spending much time on the internet.
    You may think its wonderful and has brought people together. Well, for ever couple it united, it marrooned 1000 others in their apartment living a lonely life. Sociology, romance, privacy and fine art have nearly been destroyed.

  2. Real Artist at 12:12 pm

    I wanted to expand on that a little. I hear a lot of cop-outs regularly in society about many subjects. The latest on this subject was “people in the 80’s and prior just sat to themselves and never spoke to strangers anyway on buses, in cafes, in public etc… so technology has no negative effect, only a neutral or positive one.” I guess everyone now being on their phone is besides the point?
    This is bogus and untrue. Take a trip to your nearest cafe or bus route today and tell me how many people make eye contact with you or have a conversation with you. They are all entranced like zombies in their electronic devices. Did anyone ever miss a green light while driving because the person in front of them was texting before the year 2000? Now this happens to me everyday. If I kidnapped anyone from history and showed them what life was like for a week in 2015 they’d no doubt ask me (after being thrilled half to death) “why are all these people staring down at their magic rectangles instead of talking to each other?” After explaining to them what has these people entranced, the person would no doubt relate the situation to some nightmarish sci-fi dystopian future that is now a reality. These people are not only disengaging eachother, they are straight-up wasting unconscionable time in the digital realm. The feminists already made marriage a relic, divorce a promise and the child bearing both rare and fatherless. Now technology promises to finish the job. Here is where I hear the next biggest cop-out, “well the world is overpopulated, who needs the family unit or procreation?” Are you kidding me?! We are no barely replacing ourselves in 1st world nations with the politics and technology we have. India and China may be pumping out babies now but they will see the same pitfalls we are seeing 100 years form now. The Earth can easily sustain billions more people if we set up civilization the right way. Currently, no one is acting civilly. We’ve perverted our species 2 million year old structure while deluding ourselves with cheap trick technology which frankly isn’t impressive to anyone with an imagination. We also pride ourselves on our governments and accomplishment globally, celebrating mindless athletes with million dollar salaries while teachers can hardly pay their rent.
    Where are the social institutions and and large common places where young people naturally mingle, associate and develop relationships? These institutions not only fueled the fertility rate but trained people on how to interact socially. These institutions no longer exist or they are so poorly attended that they are futile. I’m talking about libraries, skating rinks, parks, whoopee parties, heavily loitered areas, the clubhouse, etc… where is everyone? They are hypnotized at home on their sofa, alone with their imaginary digital friends, held hostage in a 2d world.
    There’s nothing to celebrate about technology. We’ve just emerged from literally 100 millenniums of barbarism and misery just so we can watch football, play on an app and watch the species evolve backward. Of all the human discourses (physics, medicine, economics, science, philosophy etc…) we’ve entirely neglected the most important one that actually directs all others. That is the ethical/moral discourse. We don’t even teach ethics to 21st century students and instead hope they will get their moral guidance from a 2000 year old book filled to the brim with lies, hate and murder. I can tell you one thing for sure. If the United States spent it’s 600 Billion Dollar Department of Defense budget on teaching ethics to everyone in the world…we would need a fucking Department of Defense in the first place! Instead, we just keep pretending that some pretend being is going to sort out all this mindless suffering and unsustainable conflict.
    So you can see. I don’t celebrate or defend technology while it tramples sociology and hope for the species. Instead, it wastes time and prevents progress. I’ve stated before that the internet is only truly useful for 2 things; navigation and wikipedia. The rest of it is expendable. We don’t even need email really. We did fine before and paid our bills just fine. Get off your computers and go look someone in the eye and talk to them. Leave your cell phone in your sock drawer for 2 months.

    • Katerina Simms Author at 3:16 pm

      I still think in all of this it’s people and their use (or misuse) of technology at fault rather than the devises themselves. Bombs don’t explode themselves, someone has to press the button, such is the way with technology.

      I haven’t watched TV since 2011, which has been great. But if I spend 2 hours reading on my Kindle or on the internet, how is that different to say 30 years ago if I’d spent that time reading a book? The lack of need for printing presses means my books are cheaper, I can get more of them, and less trees are cut down so I can read them. It’s unfortunate that people generally want to use technology to look at pictures of fluffy kittens and stupid jokes, rather than something more useful – such as building knowledge. However, back when we only had TV news, information was a lot more controlled and therefore the powers-that-be you mention also had more control to lie and manipulate society.

      Lastly, if people want to corrode their relationships by burying themselves in their devices, that’s their choice. I’d argue if it weren’t that they’d be using something else. You can’t infantilise society by removing and controlling what you don’t like or they misuse. That’s like removing all food or alcohol because someone people eat or drink more than they should.

Leave a Reply