I love technology. I love the convenience and the sense of connectedness it brings to my life. I am back at university. Every 10 years of so I seem to feel the need to go back to my books, and when I look at my 3 experiences of studying the differences are huge. The main research skill now isn’t finding relevant literature it is wading through the plethora of studies that are out there and quickly assessing the quality and relevance of each one. I can set up RSS feeds and apps so that new papers are delivered directly to my desktop, and I can ‘follow’ my favourite researchers so that I am one of the first to know when they have published new research (this is the equivalent of a pop star crush for the middle aged) – but the danger is that you become overwhelmed by the avalanche of information, to such an extent you become paralysed by it and overawed by the sense that you will never finish reading all the relevant papers. Well, maybe that is just me after a hard week of study. However fabulous and liberating technology is it also has its dark side – there is a need for you to be in control of it and to make it work for you.
One of the impacts of technology that I think we underestimate is the impact on our relationships. To what extent does the ease of communication replace meaningful interactions with superficial pleasantries? It is great ‘liking’ a friend’s comment on Facebook or sending a quick text of support to someone you know is having a tough time – but there is a real danger that we believe that this is enough – and we forget to pick up the phone or arrange to meet for a coffee and a chat. To what extent can we really engage with someone’s life if that engagement is mediated by technology?
One of the other impacts of technology on relationships is the very presence of your smart phone or your tablet on the people around you. Research has shown that having a mobile phone visible when you are having a conversation with someone causes them to feel less positive towards you and can reduce feelings of trust and closeness – even when the phone is on another table and when they don’t remember the phone being there. Look around the restaurant, pub or café next time you go out. How many people not only have their phones visible but are also using them in front of their family and friends? Next time you are at home with your partner of family think about how often you are checking your phone, or looking at Facebook on your tablet. One of the things that Mindfulness teaches us is to bring ourselves fully into the present – practice this by hiding your technology and focusing on the people that you are with. And next time you ‘like’ a friend’s comment – think about the last time you had a proper conversation with them – maybe it is time to reconnect in the real world and add some richness to your relationships.
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