Author: Michael Darling and Tyler Kearn (Contributing Opinion Editors)
Tyler Kearn (Contributing Opinions Editor)
Roger Ebert can’t speak. The movie critic, famous for the television show At the Movies with its thumbs up and thumbs down ratings and his written reviews in the Chicago Sun Times, no longer has the ability to communicate verbally, due to a tracheotomy two years ago. Since losing his voice, Ebert has started a blog. Last week, he wrote a post that described what the process was like adapting to the frustrations of his particular handicap, and how communication with people using the Internet was his salvation. It was the only thing that kept him sane.
The post shows how incredible a unifying force technology is in our lives. Ebert has received over 300 responses to the post on his blog, from people all over the country – he is in two-way conversation with individuals he would never have even encountered before the Internet.
Technology has enabled us to communicate in more ways than ever before. We can e-mail, instant message and text message. We can call anyone anywhere at anytime with our cell phones.
It is certainly true that an e-mail is less personal than a face to face meeting, and that a text message is less personal than a phone call. However, these methods of keeping in contact do not replace the older ones, they add to them – how many texts that you get would have really otherwise been phone calls? How many of the e-mails that you get in a day would have really been letters or in-person interactions?
Technology has enabled us to communicate with much greater ease. Calling somebody is only a matter of pulling your phone out of your pocket. Because of this, the frequency with which people keep in touch has greatly increased, and that keeps people in closer contact with one another.
Technology has also increased the number of people that we communicate with. Look at Ebert’s blog comments. Or look at the ultimate example, Facebook. It’s amazing when you think about it – Facebook lets you keep in touch with people from high school and even middle school, and you wind up messaging with people who you wouldn’t speak with (or even remember) otherwise.The Internet also allows for people to connect when they wouldn’t have met otherwise. Chatrooms, message boards, and online dating sites are all allowing people to find other people, and from there they can then meet up with that person in “real-life.”
Bottom line: technology allows us to meet people, keep in touch with people better, and communicate with others more often, all of which helps bring everybody closer together.
Tyler Kearn is a junior Economics major.
Michael Darling (Contributing Opinions Editor)
Log on to Facebook and see how many “friends” you have. Now how many of those are actually your friends in real life? How many of them do you hang out with regularly? Now, how many of them do you have no idea who they are?
In this modern technologically driven world, we are more connected to everyone than ever before. Yet, somehow, we have become more distanced from those around us.
Take the above social network situation for instance. In the past, our friends were easily defined as those around us who we are close to and share secrets with. But now, the meaning of friend has cheapened through the simple press of a virtual friend request button. In the song “Alone Again Or” by the band Love, the singer mentions someone told him “I could be in love with almost everyone.” What is the point of being in love with everyone, or in this case being cyber-friends with everyone, when you don’t actually care about them or spend time with them? In the song, the singer rejects this idea of trying to be with everybody, and instead chooses to be “alone again tonight.”
There’s a small joy in solitude when you are constantly connected to the world. A friend of mine says that the beauty of the cell phone is that people are always able to reach you. I agree that that’s pretty useful, but in the parlance of certain conspiracy theorists, you are always on the grid. There are people who become addicted to their Blackberry, iPhone or whatever other shiny smart phone they have because they cannot bear the thought of being disconnected from any happening, because there is always that chance that they might miss an important call or e-mail.
Hell, the cell phone’s barely even a phone anymore. Now it’s a camera, web browser, music player, text messenger, gaming system and maybe even a meat thermometer for all I care. My phone just makes and receives calls, and sends and receives texts because that’s all I need. But even text messages have a downside.
Texts and IMs are great for getting quick information without being sucked into a conversation. However, the meaning can easily get lost in the unspoken message. A UCLA study found that 93% of the meaning of what someone is saying is non-verbal. With texting and IMs, you can’t pick up on the important visual and verbal cues that so much of communication relies on. The fine arts of sarcasm and vocal nuance are useless in text-speak.
Technology is a phenomenal thing, yet we have become too dependent on it. Much like the South Park episode in which the Internet goes out worldwide, many of us would be unable to function without our modern communication methods. Yes they’re useful, but you must ask yourself one question. Do we control the technology or does the technology control us?
Michael Darling is a junior History major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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