“Technology gives us power, but it does not and cannot tell us how to use that power. Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate across the world, but it still doesn’t help us know what to say,” Jonathan Sacks

“We can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge,” Daniel J. Boorstin

So, What’s the Problem?

This month, we are going to be zooming in to some of the ways that various forms of technology negatively impact our relationships and daily life. Just as a preface- here at Cornerstone, we know and believe that technology can be such an incredible tool and that there are apps and resources that make our lives easier and more organized. This series of blogs entitled “You’re Missing Out” is not meant to push an anti-technology agenda- the goal is simply to figure out how we can have deeper and richer lives and relationships that honor God. We will be focusing on the holistic nature of this issue and how we can specifically identify and combat it’s negative effects in our lives and families.

Technology has obviously impacted our world and contributed positively to our ability to do so many things that, when I was a child, never dreamed would be possible. Many of us had to flip on the ‘Jetsons’ or ‘Back to the Future’ to even begin to imagine some of the advances and conveniences that are at our disposal today. But, there is also a dark side to technology, as with many things. Every strength has a “shadow side” and most ‘good’ things can be detrimental when used in excess or abused.

The definition of abuse is simply: “the improper use of something; to use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm” (Webster). The abuse of technology is something that needs to be discussed and to have open dialogue about. For instance: what some might consider “excessive phone use” might be another person’s “normal;” we now have multiple apps that help you realize how much time you waste on your phone, daily. For example: an app called “Moment” has recently come out that forces you off your phone when you’ve met a specified daily limit. The app’s tagline is “Put down your phone and get back to your life!” From the website: “Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.” What a great idea! An app that helps us to put up boundaries around our phone usage… but, should we really be to the point where something like this is necessary?

Take this fascinating and, frankly, sad bit of research for another example:

“… It’s a powerful insight. Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us” Sherry Turkle, The New York Times

What?!

It’s true. We miss out on real, authentic human connection because of how we have been conditioned to respond to even the mere presence of a device like a smartphone. Think about how often we are “device-less” throughout our days; this might be few and far between for most of us. A phone is an inanimate object, to which we have ascribed a great sense of false-animation to and have become overly-dependent on.  Inanimate object “A thing that is not alive, esp. not in the manner of animals and humans; showing no sign of life; lifeless.”

The Pew Research Center does copious amounts of data-collection on the use of smartphones amongst Americans. A recent report came out analyzing “smartphone ownership and the attitudes and behaviors of smartphone owners, as well as how these mobile devices have become a primary way for some users to access the internet.” During part of the study, researchers asked the question: ‘“How essential is your smartphone to your life?” A surprising 46% of smartphone owners say their smartphone is something “they couldn’t live without.”’

Think of the immense amount of entitlement that we must feel as a nation to even be willing to make the statement that this is something that we “could not live without.” Really?!

So, What Are We Missing Out On?

One 15-year-old I interviewed at a summer camp talked about her reaction when she went out to dinner with her father and he took out his phone to add “facts” to their conversation. “Daddy,” she said, “stop Googling. I want to talk to you. Sherry Turkle, The New York Times

“Some couples see technology as an unwanted third person in the relationship,” she says. “If one partner is constantly on Facebook, this might be interpreted as a preference for Facebook friends over the real-life relationship. If our partner is beside us feeling ignored, we have a problem.” Sharon Ní Chonchuir

“…the decrease in the amount of time youth spend interacting face-to-face may eventually have “significant consequences for their development of social skills and their presentation of self,”’ Emily Drago

“Do you remember the 2001 Southwest Airlines “Some Things Are Just Better in Person” campaign? The commercial series focused on interactions that can only be done in person, including: You Can’t Fax a Handshake, You Can’t Pat a Voicemail on the Back, You Can’t Tickle a Voicemail, You Can’t Fax a Pillow Fight, You Can’t Slow Dance Online, You Can’t Have Coffee With a Website, You Can’t Smell Homemade Bread on Your Pager, You Can’t Email a Kiss!  Southwest Airlines isn’t perfect (no business is). But the company regularly raises the bar from the bare minimum to a higher, more personal level of communication with customers. And this sets them apart from the rest.” Joanne Black

“The media do nothing by themselves; they are instruments, tools, used as people choose to use them. In reflecting upon the means of social communication, we must face honestly the “most essential” question raised by technological progress: whether, as a result of it, the human person “is becoming truly better, that is to say more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible, more open to others, especially the neediest and the weakest, and readier to give and to aid all,” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 15). — Pontifical Council for Social Co

In this blog series, we will uncover multiple physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual issues that arise from the abuse and overuse of, not only smartphones, but also various forms of technology, apps, and tools. These are the five areas of technology-related issues that lead to us “missing out” will be explored over the weeks to come.

Let’s decide together to self-monitor the time engaged in the use of technology that cause us to “miss out” so that our experiences and memories become stronger and deeper, and that our regrets and wasted time diminish.

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