A recent event highlighted how technology has hindered and helped our relationships
It’s inevitable that technology plays an integral and consequential role in our daily lives. It’s also inevitable that nearly every young adult who owns a digital device has and is experiencing a love/hate relationship with it.
Tieja Thomas is a researcher and educator who did her doctoral research on how socio-political phenomena such as hate, violence and oppression unfold in online environments. During a talk organized by Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement at La Petite Cuillère on Thursday, she admitted to her unhealthy dependency on technology.
“I’m not entirely comfortable with this dependency I have on technology. I worry about how screens affect my sleep, how social media affects my relationships and how an inundation of information affects my attention span,” said Thomas.
For Thomas, impatience is the unfortunate side effect of owning and constantly using technological devices.
“I have a tendency to think that all technology should just work,” said Thomas. “That every screen is a touch screen and there should be no lag time.”
Some audience members argued that technology enables us to be patient at times when we have to wait in a long line or a waiting room. In instances like these, digital devices act as pacifiers. They calm us down from the anxiety and uneasiness we get from staring at a wall, or even other human beings. They bring us into another more individualistic, highly customized world.
“Technology has supported, in very real ways, some of my most fulfilling relationships,” said Thomas. “I receive pictures of my nieces almost daily via text, WhatsApp, email, or audio video clips and Skype calls. It’s so exciting to see them grow even though I’m very far from them.”
Thomas also met her partner on an online dating site and wonders if they would have ever crossed paths in a different era where dating technology was not at their fingertips.
In contrast, the talk also highlighted how this dependency on technology has had a negative impact on keeping deep, real-life relationships.
According to research conducted by Thomas, people nowadays say they have two real friends whereas 15 years ago people said they had four real friends. The plethora of information we consume on our devices has been said to negatively impact our real life exchanges as it has made us more distracted than ever.
Additionally, online platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) that have become so embedded in our social lives they have facilitated the creation of many online communities. Many have sparked social movements discussing important and timely socio-political issues. However, Thomas is concerned with whether online movements are actually making a difference. “Social media can facilitate this armchair activism, ‘click-tivism’,” she said. “If someone posts something about a social injustice and you like it, is that doing enough?”
Whether the effects of digital technology are beneficial or detrimental to users, it’s undeniable that digital devices have had a significant impact in our non-virtual lives.