For years, technology development has been focused on optimizing the workplace. Advancements were focused on automating mechanical routines, providing tools to enhance productivity, or optimizing the storage and retrieval of information. From ERP software to some of the complex robotic systems that automate the production of automobiles, technology development was focused on work.
In the past decade, this focal point has shifted dramatically. Technology is beginning to impact the way we live and play just as much, if not more, as it is the way we work.
Entertainment, for example, has been uprooted. The ways that songs, movies, and television are distributed and consumed could not be more different than they were just 10 years ago. The way we interact and communicate has likewise changed. Landlines and letters have been replaced by cell phones and social media.
As technology penetrates further into our lives, it has the opportunity to both greatly enrich and destroy our lives. To the extent that it provides us an opportunity to be more human, technology can bring about more fulfillment. To the extent that it replaces our human experiences, it will hollow our soul and lead to a great depression.
As technology accelerates into our lives, we must be deliberate about the technology choices we make. Pondering these two questions can help.
Am I using technology to promote or replace human interaction?
I recently sat down with my daughter and talked with her about texting. Over the summer her message volume had exploded and Teresa and I became concerned that her dependence on technology was preventing her from having meaningful, human interactions with her friends.
Text messages can be a wonderful medium for instantaneously exchanging brief messages. They are great for sharing tidbits, coordinating logistics, and augmenting a relationship. They fall short, however, in expressing emotion and fail to build any sort of human connection.
When technology begins to replace, rather than supplement, human interaction it prevents the development of healthy human relationships. Text messages, email, and social media are all wonderful advancements for society, unless they are used exclusively and as a replacement for conversation. In that case, technology can be more detrimental than helpful.
Does my use of technology expand or reduce my human experiences?
There are certain experiences that are life-giving. Overcoming an obstacle, witnessing beauty, and living an adventure come to mind. The rush of whitewater rafting refreshes the soul in a way that mimicking the experience through a video game simply cannot. Attending a concert is more fulfilling than putting in headphones.
Technology enables us to widen our horizons and experience things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Modern transportation, for example, allows us to quickly navigate the world, greatly enhancing our human experiences. Technological experiences, however, are not as deep. If we always drive, we will never experience the beauty in the fields or satisfaction of having hiked.
When we become overly reliant on technology, we tend to miss some of the most human aspects of life. These are the aspects that make life worth living. Personal relationships and meaningful experiences are key parts of living a mentally and emotionally healthy life. Technology can greatly enhance both. It can also detract from both.
Slow down and be deliberate about your technology choices. You might be surprised how it changes your outlook on life.