Monday, April 8, 2013

The "Smart" Dilemma

Photo courtesy of
This is going to make me sound really old, but I can't help feeling the way I do: Smart phones make me sad. I love my tablet, but I also resent it. It is a responsibility that requires my constant attention. Yes, I can retrieve whatever information I wish at the push of a button. But I also have to make sure to clean out both the hard drive and my email inbox regularly or suffer the consequences. Google Glass seems the worst iteration of technology yet, although I haven't had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Talk about an ever-present violation of your privacy! As technology careens forward, I'm left behind with worry. How will all of these innovations affect us? Will it change who we are and how we relate? What will become of the human connection?

When I enjoy a night on the town, I can't help but notice people's downward gazes, fixed on their smart devices rather than their dining companions. A conversation interrupted by a text. An overriding need to attain a tidbit of information now. It's all so instantaneous and over stimulating. How can a mere human ever measure up? By our very nature, we humans are imperfect and inconsistent. We don't come with a search function to pare down our database to the simple and correct answer. A posed question requires thought and perspective. We each have our own point of view.

We do share some commonalities with our technological counterparts. Our batteries need recharging, too. We even accomplish that in a similar way--by plugging in, not into an outlet but into another consciousness. Our energy comes from laughing with friends or snuggling with a special someone on the sofa. We need a gaze, a kind word, a touch to know that we are recognized, seen.

A smart phone can't give you that.

My theory is that being good at emotional connection is like exercising a muscle in the body: Use it or lose it. I also believe there's a conservation of energy when it comes to socializing. There's only so much energy to go around, so spend it wisely. In other words, whatever effort you put into attending to your smart device is an opportunity missed in cultivating a meaningful relationship.

While these new advances gain popularity and an increasingly important role in our daily lives, what will become of us? Will we continue to be able to devote our undivided attention to another person? Will we remember how to have a deep conversation? I don't know the answer, but what I see worries me. It worries me deeply.