Relationships and Technology
By: Jeri Katherine Warden
I think we can all agree that for the most part technology has made it very easy to keep in touch with friends and family—even if our “friends” are people we haven’t talked to since preschool. Skype, Facebook, texting, and all the other modes of virtual communication make it easy to be in touch with people on the other side of the world. Right? I sometimes think so, but then I spend so much time Skyping, texting and calling my friends and family all over the nation and world that I am hardly present with my physical neighbors. Please don’t get me wrong; I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should cease communication with those friends and family far away, but what are you putting into your relationships immediately around you?
One of my pet peeves is talking to someone who is obviously not present due to endless incoming texts. Oh, I’m fully guilty of this social faux pas as well. We have made it easy, so it seems, to have multiple conversations going on all at once with the person right in front of us as well as with the person(s) on the other end of texts.
I think this first started to bother me when I moved to Boston. I don’t know if it is just the buzz of the city, but people always seem to be somewhere else—whether they’re on the phone chatting or walking to the beat of their iPod and texting all at once. People are kept in their own world and are not required to make healthy and sometimes awkward conversations with strangers, much less be fully present with the friends around them.
Last semester I stayed at a monastery for a week. The professor leading the trip encouraged us to turn off our phones. I turned off my phone, and I was surprised how easily I forgot about an object that usually consumes many hours of my day. At first the silence was nearly deafening; I craved the distraction of my phone as much as I craved conversation with those outside the monastery. But a mere few hours into my stay I was happily enjoying uninterrupted conversation with perfect strangers.
I also went to Turkey for ten days, and while I was certainly not without Skype or email there was something freeing about not having a phone chiming for my attention. I felt like I was fully present with my classmates, finally getting to know them after nearly two years of spending every other day with them in the same classroom.
I am not calling for people to protest technology. I don’t think I could live without multiple means of communication readily available at my fingertips. Neither am I suggesting that such communication is evil; there are certainly many positives aspects of easy communication. But I do want to challenge people to be deliberately and intentionally fully present with your physical neighbor. Face-to-face conversation with all the non-verbal body language cannot be replaced.
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