Earlier this week, I won a public speaking competition; I chose to speak about the impacts of technology on humanity.
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. That’s what Albert Einstein reportedly predicted approximately a hundred years ago. But was he, one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, correct in making this prediction?
Since the invention of the mobile phone, there has been a great deal of speculation about the impact of technology on people’s social lives. Many believe that social networking sites have mostly detrimental effects on users’ relationships and result in disengagement from the real world. Well, I, on the other hand, would disagree with this view.
Technology has undoubtedly had a profound impact on humanity- the average person spends four years of her life looking down at her mobile phone, and approximately 3.2 billion people now have access to the internet- that’s roughly half of humanity. So has technology made all these people, as Mr. Einstein put it: a generation of idiots? And have touch screens made us lose touch with each other?
Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and let’s not forget my personal favourite- Tumblr. It’s very difficult to ignore the impacts of technology on our relationships. Nowadays, many people inarguably prefer uploading selfies and sharing witty jokes and cat videos to meeting up and conversing face-to-face with friends. However, that being said, the aforementioned applications, and many more, allow us to maintain conversations with people on the other side of the globe.
We can share experiences and information, feelings and ideas. We can even communicate face-to-face with applications like Skype and Facetime. Distance is no longer a barrier, and technology has enabled us to expand our social horizons online- to become more culturally and socially aware- to deepen our connections to the world around us, and to enhance the way we think about things. Technology does not come in between us; in fact, much of it exists primarily in order to allow us to fortify our already existent relationships and develop new ones.
In a world of so many people, ignorance is inevitable. Racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of injustice inarguably exist on this planet, but these ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ can be combatted, or at least reduced significantly, through conversation. If we only see the world only through our own eyes, we will never come to appreciate alternative views or lifestyles.
Now, many people perceive my generation- the wired generation- as a bunch of lazy imbeciles who do nothing but stare at their phones all day. While this is, admittedly, partially true, I strongly believe that my generation is more accepting and open-minded than the current order. Because of social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter, I have friends from all over the world; from all different walks of life. Without technology, I’d simply be confined to my own small world. Conversation is integral to understanding one other, thus eradicating ignorance, and technology allows us to do just that. In actuality, the very basis of social media is wired into our nature as human beings. When we witness or experience something extraordinary, we like to tell others. Similarly, when we witness or experience something unpleasant, we like to vocalise our displeasure. Human beings are natural complainers and socialisers. So essentially, technology makes us more human.
As a keen science enthusiast, while writing this speech, I thought about the impact of technology in evolutionary terms. As human beings, we have got to where we are now by constantly developing, and by taking advantage of the resources and tools made available to us, so as to enhance the quality of our lives. I firmly believe that technology is allowing us to fulfil our potential as a species.
The use of technology to communicate with others is particularly beneficial for introverts like me- people who are far better typers than they are speakers- people who often don’t know how to fill the awkward gaps in face-to-face conversations.
The phenomenon of being together while not being together is becoming more and more popular. We’re getting used to a new way of being ‘alone together’- alone, yet connected to hundreds of others worldwide.
Now, I, as an introverted techno optimist, see this as a very positive thing- the technological scene is forever changing, and pretty soon we’ll have things like holograms and realistic avatar experiences to further improve how we use technology to socialise. Technology certainly has its downsides, which I won’t overlook. Sometimes people become so engrossed in and obsessed with virtual worlds of ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, superficial connections and filters, that they completely tune out the real world. But all good things quickly become very nasty when overused.
To conclude, technology hasn’t made us less sociable; it has absolutely revolutionised the ways in which we interact with each other, but in all the innovation and excitement, we must never forget that human beings are the only things with souls, and not until we put down our phones and look into each other’s eyes will we ever be able to touch each other’s hearts.