Do We Need To Unplug?
// Posted by Renee on 01/30/2012 (11:18 PM)
These days, we use social media to connect with our friends. But even when we’re around our friends we are still locked into technology. It’s not unusual to see a group of friends sitting around the dinner table, all on their phones texting, tweeting, or checking facebook.
So the question is does technology interfere with our personal relationships?
Last fall, Jack Reilly, a college student living in Chicago, decided to explore the answer to this question. Fed up with the amount of time he felt he wasted using technology rather than having face to face connections with friends, Reilly decided to unplug from all forms of social media for 90 days. He gave up the internet, email, phone calls, texting, and even TV. What he found was that some of his more casual relationships fizzled but he could make more meaningful connections with the people around him. He was able to get back together with his girlfriend because when they were together they were able to fully focus on each other and their relationship and he got much more creative with what he did in his free time because he had lots more of it now. For more details, check the article out here.
In response to Reilly, New Media theorist would argue that humans have co-evolved with technology, and that the importance of technology in our lives is not just about the technology and its capabilities, but rather, it is about how the technology is embodied in our lives. Technology does just serve a functional purpose but it can also satisfy our emotional, perceptual, and social needs.
In my opinion, Reilly actually proves that this is true by demonstrating how our social patterns have evolved with technology. Reilly talked with members of older generations who told him that when they were younger and wanted to make plans they would drive over to each others’ houses to try to find them or there would be a diner in town that people where people would always meet up and where you could always find friends who were looking to hangout. But today technology has given us new means and we’ve evolved. Instead of driving to a friend’s house to see if they’re available ,we text or facebook them. Even when Reilly thinks he’s getting away from technology, he finds that he is using means of communication which resemble the technology he has grown accustomed to, like the public notes on the elevator door which resemble a facebook wall.
I think Reilly’s overall point is valid. Our generation does spend way too much time using social media rather than connecting face to face. And there have been studies done which show how our generation has poor phone skills because we constantly rely on texting. But I think that abandoning all social media is an extreme that does not have to be taking. I think it’s more important to be a member of a physical community, whether that be friends, family, or a neighborhood, than an international community of angry bird players. But those physical communities can also be proliferated online. Social media provides useful ways to connect, learn, and spread information. But there needs to be some balance between the time we spend plugged in and the time we spend “unplugged” enjoying life outside of technology. In short, its fine that we check our e-mails, that we connect via facebook, and occasionally get sucked into youtube black holes, but we also need to make a commitment to ourselves to put the phone away when we’re sitting a dinner table with family and friends. When we’re in a social situation, it’s more important to really be in that setting and make a connection, than to pull out our phones and tweet about what we’re doing or make sure we get that one last angry bird.
Don’t be this person. . . .