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Public Experiences with Technology

February 8, 2012

I sit down at a local cafe to do some work. A young woman of about my age walks in and sits down nearby. I watch as she pulls out her smart phone. “Normal,” I think. Next, she pulls out a laptop. “Maybe she has a project to work on,” I think, optimistically. Wrong.

I look on in horror as she simultaneously sends Internet messages on her smart phone and surfs Facebook on her laptop. Perhaps it’s my own naivety, but is this really necessary? The smart phone is designed so that you don’t have to bring along your laptop computer to perform simple Internet functions. If you want to watch YouTube videos in public, wouldn’t it be much easier to do that on your smart phone?

Once again, I fail to understand this generational desire for unlimited and constant connectedness (connectedness here defined as being always “wired in”). I go to the cafe precisely because I want to get away from this computer and the addictive connectivity that it offers.

Across the cafe, an old man chats with the middle-aged manager of the coffee shop. It is a poignant reminder of the differences between our generations. On one side of the cafe are two people achieving the connectedness for which this public space was designed. There, on our side of the cafe sit three younger people, not communicating at all.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 5:41 PM

    The argument can be made that the kids on their phones are interacting just as much, if not more than the two men having a face-to-face conversation. Though I tend to agree with you, that personal interaction is more valuable than talking to someone through a technological medium, being “wired in” to social media is a valuable tool for contacting a vast amount of people. We can’t wholly condemn laptops and smartphones as scourges of interaction.

  2. February 8, 2012 5:47 PM

    I would be that middle-aged guy. I completely appreciate technology, and the convenience it has brought to the world. I use facebook, something many people my age do not use, and I text and send e-mails. What I like more is the face-to-face conversations I can have with a live person.

    When I was growing up, technology was something that helped you do things, a treadmill to walk your, for instance (thank you George Jetson), but now I see younger people using it to replace actual experiences in life. Like you said, two guys having a conversation on one side of the room, and three young people on the other side not communicating with one another at all. I refuse to carry on a conversation via text, and only use facebook for people who are geographically out of physical reach.

    I don’t understand how relationships start with this group. Good Luck guys!

  3. February 8, 2012 5:50 PM

    That’s absolutely true, which is why I think there are two kinds of connectedness. It’s an extremely important distinction to make, and one that I think is almost entirely generational (although that too is changing among older generations). There are those of my generation, for whom “connectedness” means being “wired in,” that is, being connected to everyone you know all the time. Then there is a “connectedness” which means an empathetic, face-to-face interaction. It’s personally frustrating when I find people who can’t co-exist within both worlds.

    And yes, you’re absolutely right, technology has made it more possible to communicate with more people, from a wider network, than ever before in human history. That, in itself, is something worth celebrating (with caution).

  4. February 8, 2012 5:53 PM

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your comment: “I don’t understand how relationships start with this group.”

    I’ll try and explore this idea in future posts.

Trackbacks

  1. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s a Tablet « Technology Uninhibited
  2. Where Is Technology Taking Us? « Technology Uninhibited

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