You’ve seen the zombies everywhere. They have a dead pan look on their faces as their eyes glisten, reflecting the light from the screens in front of them. They have white chords hanging from their heads, unable to hear anything from the world around them. They don’t speak to others, merely mumbling, unable to speak because their world is digitized. You may have thought they were brain dead, the way the stare off into nothing, mumbling nonsense about hash-tags and ‘likes.’
Everyone makes a big stink about the zombie apocalypse that is sure to come, caused by some scary virus breaking out among our world’s population (Ebola?!?). However, the zombie apocalypse was started by a different kind of virus. In the 90’s we were introduced to what would one day be the modern smartphone. As technology improved, the virus slowly began to fester in our souls. We became attached to beepers and PDAs that would command our every move. Shortly, cell phones became more compact and we could email! We could get online! We could instantaneously connect with a friend down the street or across the world via a small device in our back pocket. Pictures, music, games, blogs, and social media have enchanted our minds to ensure that our whole worlds can be held in the palm of our hand.
And it’s no where near the end of this societal phenomenon. As our phones and tablets get more features, we become even more transformed into zombie like creatures. We retreat into ourselves, restricting our social interaction to the digital realms of our devices. These devices were supposed to enhance our society’s social abilities. If you look around though, is anyone really talking? Plugged into headphones, it’s hard to hear anyone else’s voice, let alone carry a conversation with them. With our eyes hopelessly trained on our device’s screens at every spare moment, how are we able to notice the people around us? But we’re having a conversation via texting! I just tweeted at my friend! I’m building a relationship with a guy on Tinder!I’m using a social network for Pete’s sake!
These e-interactions are hardly healthy or even very social. Studies show that technology is limiting our interaction and social abilities. Katherine Bindley quotes Melissa Ortega in her article, When Children Text All Day, What Happens To Their Social Skills? Ortega, a child psychologist at New York’s Child Mind Institute mentions, “Another thing I’m noticing is they may have trouble initiating interactions, those small talk situations. They don’t have as much experience doing it because they’re not engaging in it ever. They always have something else going on.” The article also discusses how children aren’t learning nonverbal cues or how to handle conflict.
I know I am guilty of this. When I get to class, I immediately pull out my phone to avoid sitting there with no one to talk to. In some of my classes, I do have friends to chat with, but our chatter seems loud compared to the deafening silence surrounding us, since everyone else in on their phones. Sometimes I feel like I’m bothering my friends by talking to them, they chat but occasionally glance down at their screens to check for notifications or messages. Will this behavior ever change? I doubt it. This is the way our society lives now and it’s only going to get worse as more and more technology comes out.
Reader, what do you think? Is technology helping us or hurting us?