I sometimes hear from folks who lament that today’s technology isolates people, and – depending on the ferocity of their opinion – is leading towards society’s moral decay and eventual collapse.
I couldn’t disagree more.
I see technology as part of the solution, rather than the problem.
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Success stories: bringing families together
Some of my most rewarding interactions follow this pattern:
These are especially meaningful to me when the person reporting back turns out to be in their eighties or nineties, and my assistance has allowed them to continue to remain connected, not only across miles (perhaps thousands of miles), but across generations as well.1
Helping grandma remain connected with the grandkids just makes my day.
Bringing communities together
But there’s more to it than helping individuals retain connections. Sometimes it’s about enabling entirely new communities to form.
You may be aware that for the past 15 years or so, my wife and I have hosted the annual “Pacific Northwest Corgi Picnic”. Corgi owners from around the area bring their dogs to our home for an afternoon of fun in our (fenced) back yard. Last year we had over 150 dogs and people.
We also regularly go camping with like-minded Corgi owners.
These are events – in-person, real-world events – that would not have taken place were it not for the technology that surrounds us today. The technology that enables you to read this enables entirely new communities to form.
From Corgi Picnics (there are several around the country)3, to meetup groups that organize online, to things like Kickstarter projects and more, entire communities of people are coming together in new and exciting ways – ways that would not have been as easy before the advent of technologies ranging from simple email (the genesis of our picnic) to Facebook (responsible for the overwhelming success of the SoCal effort) and more.
Information bringing about social and political change
It’s more than bringing people (and perhaps their dogs) together to socialize; the technology around us is fostering change, the majority of which I would claim is good.
Information relating to just about any cause or issue you might think of is now readily available – both passively, as resources for research, and actively, in the form of communities that rally around a cause and take action.
Technology is bringing us together in ways we never could have imagined, and enabling community and change that we never would have considered.
Technology doesn’t isolate people
People isolate people.
I honestly don’t “get” the concern that technology is somehow isolating us. As I sit here behind my computer, I feel more connected than I ever would have, had computers and the internet never been born. I interact with more people on a daily basis – online and in person – than I imagine I ever would have otherwise.
Blaming technology for isolation may be an excuse, or simply making it a scapegoat for something that would have happened anyway.
People isolate themselves, regardless of what’s available to them.
Just because they’re not willing or able to connect with you in the way that you want doesn’t mean that they’re isolating themselves. It’s very possible – even likely – that they’re more connected than you can imagine, using technologies you’ve elected to pass by.
Don’t fear technology. Get connected. Get comfortable getting connected.
- Learn to Skype, Facetime, SnapChat, or whatever it is that the kids are doing these days. 🙂
- Write an email rather than lamenting that no one writes letters any more. Letters are appreciated just as much as ever; it’s just the medium that’s changed.
- Join a discussion or meet-up group relating to your interests. It could be local, leading to in-person events, or it could be global, leading to interactions you never would have dreamed possible in years gone by.
- Embrace new ways of connecting with the world – and the people – around you.
- Make a difference. Be it to someone – perhaps an overseas grandchild that’s never heard your voice – or to some cause, use technology to make the world a little better.
If anything, I’m more excited by the possibilities for connection and community across our entire planet than ever before.
I hope you’ll share in that excitement, and take a little action to embrace it.