I sometimes hear folks complaining that today’s technology isolates people, and — depending on the ferocity of their opinion — is leading to 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:
- Someone has a computer problem preventing them from doing something important.
- They come to me for help.
- I help — either directly, or with something that leads to a solution.
- Sometime later, I hear back that the problem has been resolved.
- The “something important” turns out to be remaining in contact with out-of-the-area family.
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 remain connected, not only across miles (perhaps thousands of miles), but across generations.1
Helping grandma remain connected with the grandkids makes my day.
Bringing communities together
But there’s more to technology than helping individuals connect. Sometimes it’s about enabling forming new communities.
For nearly 20 years, 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. We’ve had as many as 150 dogs with as many people.
We also regularly go camping with like-minded Corgi owners.
These are events — in-person, real-world events — that would not take place were it not for the technology that surrounds us today. The technology enabling 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 Kickstarter projects and more, groups 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 their dogs) together to socialize; the technology around us fosters change, the majority of which I see as 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 brings us together in ways we never could have imagined, and enables community and change we never would have considered, without it.
Technology doesn’t isolate people
People isolate people.
I honestly don’t “get” the concern that technology is somehow isolating. 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 ever could have in previous decades.
Blaming technology for isolation may simply be 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 you want doesn’t mean they’re isolating themselves. It’s very possible — even likely — they’re more connected than you know, using technologies you’ve elected to pass by. Even the kids spending time on their mobile devices are using those devices to connect, though it may be in ways you and I are unfamiliar with.
Don’t fear technology. Get connected. Get comfortable getting connected.
- Learn to Skype, Facetime, SnapChat, or whatever it is the kids you know are doing these days. :-)
- Write an email rather than lamenting that no one writes letters anymore. Letters are appreciated just as much as ever; we just send them electronically these days.
- Join a discussion or Meetup group related to your interests. It could be local, leading to in-person events, or it could be global, creating 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 who’s never heard your voice) or to some cause, use technology to make the world a little better.
- Share what you learn with others. That will connect you to more people in ways you can’t imagine.
Even in the face of headlines that scream “Fake News!” or “Beware Your Privacy!”, I’m more excited than ever before by the possibilities for connection and community across our entire planet.
I hope you’ll share in that excitement, and take action, however small, to embrace it.