Pushing a baby carriage the caretaker texts or talks on the phone instead of cooing the infant. Dining at restaurants, couples check emails, search the web, text, or tweet telling others what they are doing instead of talking with each other. In hallways at universities students collapse against the walls looking at their tablets or smart phones instead of meeting other students. In lecture halls students text or search the web instead of processing the class materials. In their cubicle at work employees email and text instead of walking over to the next cubicle to share information. On the sidewalk pedestrians text while being oblivious to the environment.
All new innovations and inventions have a positive and negative side (e.g., nuclear medicine and atomic weapons). When adopting the new social media and technologies, use the precautionary principle by respecting our evolutionary background. In-depth communication and sharing is healing and nurturing, thus create/demand enough time to explore and connect in actual face-to-face synchronous communication with family, friends and colleagues.
Most new technology has been met with naysayers until it has been integrated appropriately into our lives. Nevertheless, I am concerned how social media may substitute for actual communication. It may allow us to present our persona and hide our real self as our messages ping back and forth. This same asynchronous communication is also true for letter writing except that it takes much longer to receive feedback in return. The obvious difference between texting/tweeting and letter writing is the possible depth and length of the communication. The addictive social media communication may hinder social and emotional growth which is developed during actual face-to-face communication. Before deciding whether the social media causes harm –anything that is beneficial may also in excessive dosages cause harm– read Alison Gonik’ essay, The kid who wouldn’t let go of ‘the device’ which was published in the March 22-23, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal.
Although there are many advantages of the new digital devices, there may also be unintended consequences. These consequences are superbly explored by professor Sherry Turkle, founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, in her book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other and in her Ted talk, Connected but all alone.
These concepts are also graphically illustrated in the video clip, The innovation of loneliness.