Whether good or bad, modern technology has developed quite a reputation for itself. Many people argue that it may be the downfall of genuine human connection, while others claim that it could be the thing that unites us. Personally, I know I have found myself in both of these camps from time to time, but I can never commit to one or the other. The New York Times and The Bottom Line represent both ends of the spectrum, so let’s investigate each source’s side of the debate.
First off, Mark Oppenheimer from The New York Times claims that technology is only bringing people closer as it progresses. Oppenheimer sites research from a study conducted by urban theorist Keith Hampton, which found that “altogether, [tech users] were much more successful at addressing local problems, like speeding cars and a small spate of burglaries.” The article also suggests that we have created an “idealized notion of what community and social interactions were like,” romanticizing an inaccurate portrayal of past society. Additionally, the issue has been blown out of proportion over time. In fact, on the steps of the Met, only 3% of adults on average were found to be on their cell phones, and those who fell into that 3% were usually alone. This article seems to argue that distance caused by technology is a myth, or, at worst, a non-issue.
However, The Bottom Line tells another story. Author Melissa Niles finds herself feeling disconnected from her friends and family because people believe that technology is a substitute for face to face interaction, but “ten texts can’t even begin to equal an hour spent chatting with a friend over lunch.” It’s true; connection seems to happen over social media rather than in person, whether this occurs out of actual physical convenience or just laziness. This mentality has proven time and time again to be harmful, causing people to feel empty and unappreciated. In a Cornell study Niles cites, it was found that “despite the current ability to connect with vast amounts of people via the Internet, a person can still only truly maintain a friendship with a maximum of 100 to 200 real friends in their social network.” It can be hard to distinguish real relationships in a sea of various followers, leaving tech users feeling even more estranged than before.
So, what does all of this information actually say? Obviously, the debate is up to interpretation. Both sides have data-driven points, but the emotional aspect is heavier on the latter side. Though not mentioned here, the former argument is usually paired with the notion that modern technology allows for instant connection to anyone anywhere in the world. In my opinion, technology is a blessing and a curse. Sure, it can bring groups of people together and make connections across the world, but it can also chip away at real-world friendships. However, it is important to keep in mind that technology is a vessel, not an absolute. Someone may choose to use tech to connect with others, but they may also choose to use it to distance themselves from the rest of the world. All in all, it is the hand of the user that determines which way the pendulum swings.