Terrific article! One thing which I always mention when I hear similar discussions of our evolving (some prefer to say devolving) relationship with technology as a society, culture, and/or species — and something you may have already considered so forgive me if I’m being annoying — is that there are certainly real benefits that we tend to overlook. Additionally, I like to temper the problems with the fact that for many, tech is the only solution to being able to live, in a sense.
What I mean is, especially on public transit, many people in America only take transit because they can’t afford a private vehicle. These are people who spend more time commuting than their more affluent peers, and who often work more hours, more random hours, and frequently hold more than one job.
The result is that they have very little free time to enjoy themselves. They also have trouble being able to make plans with friends whose schedules may not align. It’s been a really depressing realization for myself to have to conclude that for many people in minimum-wage style jobs, the ONLY way to maintain social ties with friends and family is through social media, messaging, etc. I’m loathe to state the obvious but it’s a revolting state of affairs when a pretty large portion of the population is so robbed of time that their primary form of connection with those they hold dear has become, out of necessity, the digital world.
On top of that, many work during the standard hours of operation for most businesses and due to the nature of their extortative employer, are unable to take time during the day to complete tasks like going to the bank, the library, etc. For them, the options are foregoing those tasks, or doing them online wherever possible, and in their already tenuous free time.
I once had my headphones break on a long bus ride and overheard a woman in the back of the bus trying to talk just loud enough that the person on the other end could hear her. I tried to ignore it bur some words caught my attention and suddenly I realized: she was having a telemedicine visit with her doctor. She mentioned at one point that the digital visits were such a blessing because otherwise she’d never get the time off to go to the office. I uh … well, I don’t have many good thoughts about the implications *that* has for the possible future of service industry workers.
However, the upsides are tremendous and far outweigh the negatives, in my opinion — especially because almost all of the negatives are a direct result of individual people, corporations, and the conditions of society in general; not of fundamental qualities of the technology itself.
The primary benefit of tech (and the one I always turn to as a reminder that technology is essential to the advancement of humanity towards better, more enjoyable lives) is that it gives voices to those who otherwise would never have them, and builds communities where they could never have formed otherwise.
Black Lives Matter, for instance, has only managed to come to prominence through technology, in a sense. Not a single one of the things they fight against are a new problem. Police brutality, institutionalized racism, and the absurdly high number of PoC murdered by cops are disgusting issues but *they have been happening for a very long time*.
But, just 10 years ago not enough people were comfortable enough with cameraphones to even think to whip them out and record an incident of police doing bad things. Now we see the footage all the time. It’s not as though police suddenly became violent, murdering racists overnight, or that they have recently increased their nastiness.
All that changed is more people could afford smartphones, more people learned to use them, and the internet gave them the ability to share that evidence with anyone else who had access — a thankfully growing number.
We are discovering disparities in our society at a breakneck speed these days. There have been small groups of people trying to get word out about them for ages, but now they can join together over any distance, share their thoughts and experiences with a global audience, and organize effectively to make themselves heard.
I dunno, I’m just thinking out loud for this sentence, but I wonder about whether the number of people who are enabled by tech and those who are disenfranchised because of lack of access to it are moving in the right directions? Like, are more people able to effect change in the world through online community who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to than people are being made unable to participate in society due to lack of access to tech? I’m really not fit to examine that question but it’s going to be on my mind for a while.
So yeah, uh … that’s my rant I guess. Sorry; this was supposed to be a short little comment about how I enjoyed your article and it made me think. So, my self-indulgent drivel aside, I’d like to say:
I really enjoyed your article, and it made me think. Please keep up the great work!