Fancy doing some really interesting and thought provoking reading on the always fascinating subject of technology’s impact in everyone’s day to day life? Yes, I know, I bet you would. Check out then Thomas Friedman‘s So close, yet so far, over at International Herald Tribune, where he actually gets to share a great story on the impact of technology on him and those around him, specially in a recent trip to Paris where he actually got to interact, if you could say that, with a local taxi driver. I can certainly recommend highly for you to go and read the article because in it you would be able to find little gems like this one:
"[…] The driver and I had been together for an hour, and between the two of us we had been doing six different things. He was driving, talking on his phone and watching a video. I was riding, working on my laptop and listening to my iPod
There was only one thing we never did: talk to each other."
Or this other one:
"I relate all this because it illustrates something I’ve been feeling more and more lately – that technology is dividing us as much as uniting us. Yes, technology can make the far feel near. But it can also make the near feel very far […]"
And there are plenty more! I am sure that by the time you finish off its reading you would agree to some extent with what Thomas mentions and perhaps you could even relate to it, too. I know I have. Not here where I live, though. It is a rather small place still to be noticed by technology with such impact, but certainly in most of my travelling done over the last few years more and more I am noticing that, too.
However, the key message I got from Thomas’ article is that, contrary to what he seems to state, I do not necessarily feel that is a bad thing, actually. Yes, I can imagine when situations like that could be rather annoying as they facilitate providing a strong sense of ignoring those around you, but at the same time there are times when you are actually much better on your own and technology may be providing you with the perfect excuse for it. The key message to me though is to find a balance, because like I have quoted a few months back: "We create our own distractions and just need to learn to manage them".
So that is the whole point to me about Thomas’ article, that sometimes it is good to be left alone thinking about your own thoughts and some other times it is good to talk (with others). The key thing is to be able to distinguish when to do what and for what purpose and whom is it going to have an impact on. Because whether we like it or not, Thomas’s article is not bringing forward anything new in this scenario. For quite some time now, there have always been plenty of distractions around us and it has been up to us to decide when we would need to focus and when not. And if it has happened in the past for a number of years I just cannot see how technology is going to have such an impact. If it is used properly, that is.
As a wrap up to this weblog post let me now point you to a letter to the editor where a couple of folks have been commenting as well on this particular article. Check out Letters: Being good, Technology and Society. And specially read the commentary from Rhonda Kelner, whose last paragraph reads as follows:
"IPods, cellphones and laptops should certainly be shut-off at times, and used with great caution, or not at all in some situations, but these gadgets don’t necessarily stymie human interaction and attention. Indeed they often stimulate conversations about technology."