I'm away on holiday at the moment, travelling through Europe…
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.
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.
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.
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