It’s not about how, it’s about who…

Jan 20, 2017

I want to start a conversation. I want to talk about technology and connectedness.

Are we going deep down into a rabbit hole by letting technology become so embedded in our lives? Are we becoming a society of less connected socially awkward loners, or is it just a different way to connect?

In my world, I am surrounded by technology all the time, not only because I work at an IT company but because I am a dad to three teenagers who are constantly on their technology. Our VP Strategy, Lindsay Dodd, touched on this in his paperless blog about how the cloud is changing the way we work, where he discusses what we can learn from Grade 8 kids.

For those of you with even younger children than Lindsay and me, think about the world they are going to inherit. What traits will they need to get a job in twenty years? What types of technology will be around to connect them with other people (or the robot down the street)?

I was talking with a coworker the other day, visiting with her and her new baby. She had to cut our visit short to get home because her father had a playdate scheduled with his grandson. Now I happen to know her father winters in Mexico, and she had even recently mentioned him being there, so I wondered why he’d come back already. She explained that she Facetimes with her father and puts it on her big screen via her Apple TV so that it is like he is in the room playing with the baby. Wow, cool, I thought.

Yet why am I surprised? Just a few weeks ago, I watched a Christmas special with my niece and nephew on their TV in Los Angeles, from my living room in Edmonton, 3000 kilometers (or 1800 miles) away. They propped their iPad on the couch between them while I was on a Facetime call, and we watched and talked together just as if I was there in person. It’s magic, really.

But as magic as the technology is, it’s not about the how. It’s about the who.

There is a profound infiltration of digital tools in our lives: texts and messages, posts and updates, photos and videos, Snapchat and Instagram, check-ins and emails, to name just a few of the ways we are interrupted by the buzzing and beeping in our pockets and on our wrists and from our desks. More and more these days, hanging out with another human being means hanging out with their technology alongside their physical self. And sometimes not their physical self at all.

Why does social media and other tech-enabled connection hold such power? Some argue that they are designed specifically to have that effect, but that can only work because it triggers a response in us. To me it isn’t necessarily that we are somehow being tricked into wasting time checking our apps. It is more about the basic human need for connection, and the frictionless way that various communications technologies have become part of the everyday. I wake up, I check my phone, make sure my kids are up, they check their phones. And we do this without even a thought. But instead of just three or four human interactions taking place, there have been twenty and it’s not even 8 am. It is now so embedded in my consciousness that I hardly register the fact that I wake up and connect to the entire world before I have done anything else. But I have.

And I think that is pretty amazing.

Our smartphones are like magic wands, connecting us with the world with the wave of a hand and the swipe of a finger, and also helping project an image to the world of who we are. In many ways, it is no different than what we did with letters and libraries and long distance phone calls, or in choosing the clothes we wear or the car we drive (unless we’re choosing to ride a bike or take public transit, which is making a statement too). Yet in so many other ways, it is so much more powerful.

As I see it, it is simply another part of our selves and the newest thread in the web of connections we have built as a species. Ultimately, it extends for us the sense of community we have craved as human beings for thousands of years. Connections with others… our tribe… our people… the who.

So back to the beginning. I want to start a conversation. I want to talk about technology and connectedness. What are your thoughts?

Connections Blog

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