Technology: Bridging the Gap or Building the Wall?

My day begins with technology. The first sound I awake to in the morning is the ringing of my phone alarm which I immediately grab—but not just to shut it off. Instead, I proceed to check the weather and then my email all while still lying in bed. If I head for a run, I use the RunKeeper app on my phone to map my miles and track my pace along with my iPod to ensure there’s not a moment of silence or serenity from the time my feet hit the ground.

Before 8am I feel so connected to the world, but yet I haven’t had one single face-to-face interaction.

Let’s rewind this scenario and this time take away technology. I might wake up and have a cup of coffee with my boyfriend instead of checking my email. Without a phone or an iPod to keep me busy, I might choose to walk with a friend and catch up on each other’s life. Without the technological noise, I’m now available to engage a neighbor in a morning hello and actually get to know the special people who live right around me.

So what role does technology play in our lives? It’s certainly the Great Connector, but just like any other tool—it’s all about how you use it. I can use smart phones and social media to stay connected with people all over the world; for this reason, technology bridges the gap. But the moment I refuse to “disconnect” long enough to interact with the world right around me, technology instead begins to build a wall—a fortress, really.

At one point or another, we have all found ourselves in at least one of these scenarios: G-Chatting with a friend sitting two computers away. Sitting at a restaurant where everyone at the table is looking at their phone, texting. Thinking the person in the bathroom stall next to you is engaging you in conversation, when really they’re on their phone. Breaking up via phone call, email—maybe even by simply ending the relationship on Facebook. Asking someone for directions only to realize they have an iPod in and didn’t hear a word you said.

These are such trivial examples, but they’re signs that bigger problems are on the horizon. When did we become a society more comfortable Skyping with someone continents and oceans away, but too uncomfortable to talk to the person bagging our groceries?

Technology is one of the greatest tools we will ever possess, but it’s up to us to use it to build bridges not walls.

14 thoughts on “Technology: Bridging the Gap or Building the Wall?

  1. I think that you make some good points, and I agree, in the classroom it is up to us as educators to make technology work as tools for teaching! For me, student cellphones were the biggest issue, but now I’ve started using their cellphones as a way for them to participate in class, with great success! (:

  2. I rely on technology to connect me in so many ways. Technology makes learning possible for me. As a student with the Open University living in Inverness means I’m fairly remote but through technology I can engage with my peers and have access to the most wonderful library just at the click of a button.

    As a carer my opportunity to get out and about and engage with friends is limited and never spontaneous so I rely on technology heavily in the social side of my life. Without it I would feel infinitely disconnected. Interesting post and thoughts!


  3. All good points. During hurricane Irene, 80% of my town was without power for a week. We all joked that actually talking to people without electronics would be scarier than a dark house at night, but I struck up more conversations with strangers that week than I have for a long time. “Connecting” via technology is here to stay, but your post is a good reminder to connect in old school ways, too. I’ll remember it the next time I’m at the grocery store. The guy bagging the groceries would probably appreciate a customer who meets his eye, smiles and says, “Thank you.”

  4. Yes! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I love the possibilities technology gives us. But I’m kind of irritated by the fact that a friend will rather talk to me on the phone or chat with me for an hour or more instead of meeting up and talking face to face. I do prefer the latter.
    And don’t get me started on facebook…

    I don’t know about you but for me it’s exhilarating to turn of the technology and really be there… taking to the person next to me instead of constantly glancing at the phone, listening to the sound of crickets instead of silencing it out with music constantly.

  5. Recently on vacation we traveled to a family reunion. Most of stayed with the patriarch of the family and the days were crazy with kids running all over the place. At night everyone retreated to their own electronics. In years past we’ve played v=board games or sang songs, but this year we barely even talked to each other because there were four new iPads for people to play with. I like my tech toys as much as the next guy, but looking around the room at a people clicking away made me sad.

    One of the best things I did this year was take part in Disconnect to Reconnect on Father’s Day.

  6. It’s so tempting to handle more and more human interactions through devices. I find myself recently endeavoring more and more to actually DO things with the people whom I care about. I suppose not surprisingly, I feel more connected, more loving, more loved, more alive and generally happier.

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