The power of mass media is undeniably a very beneficial addition to humanity as a whole. What once took weeks or months to perform communication can now be done instanetaneously. Mass media "Brings people together". This is the common phrase I have heard associated with technological communication over the past semester in the recent years that technology has expanded ever so greatly. The purpose of this presentation is not to argue a point that technology plays little to no role in communication but rather I would like to discuss the affect that technology is having on our society’s ability to be what I call “fully present” in our surroundings. Often times we see technology making long distance relationships possible but what we will examine in this essay is to what extent is technology making people less capable of performing physical communication and also to what extent is technology acting as a barrier to physical, personal communication.
In a recent New York times article “84% of resident households had access to at least one computer, and 52% had access to two or more computers”, “70% of those surveyed used smart phones.” These statistics are high and it demonstrates how technology has become rapidly available to a majority of the population. While this access to technology leads to children learning at an earlier age how to communicate using phones, computers and online applications it is also fair to say that the attention technology demands is pulling time away from valuable social learning opprotunities on how to conduct physical conversations in which such factors as: tone of speech, eye contact, body language, cultural language norms, specific diction, and handling silence have to be considered. These are all for the most part factors that one does not have to consider at all in texting or email and only to a certain extent with video chat capabilities. Texting for those unfamiliar revolves around the use of letters and symbols to translate ideas to one another. These symbols, known as emojiis, can often be used to show the emotion or feeling one is meant to demonstrate but obviously can’t due to the one dimensional form of communication. While this brings texting to a deeper form of communication where emotions can somewhat be expressed it still does not help condition the human brain for expressing emotions in a physical conversation. There are times when one must conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate for a certain environment or circumstance. For example, at a funeral, if one attends a funeral out of support for a family friend with no real connection to the deceased it is still expected that the participant shows a certain level of seriousness or grief. To express this one needs practice in learning what facial expressions confirm this idea and image of grief. To expand on the matter one cannot merely type “ I am sorry for your loss :( “ one must be aware of their facial demeanor, the way in which they carry themselves, the tone of voice used in expressing sympathy and finally understand body language dos and donts in such an environment in an attempt to live up to the cultural normalcies expected. Physical conversation carries in itself a far greater level of communication than what one is accustomed to in communicating via mass media.
Additionally when in a group setting it is also vital to note that while everyone will generally have technology not everyone is using it for communication, in fact many are using it in a way that further isolates the individual from the physical community. This is evident in the rise of music downloads, app store games, viral videos, and online transaction websites. The emphasis for the individual becomes not on communicating and sensing the well being of those around oneself but rather on the personal entertainment and attentiveness on one as an individual not as a member of a group. There is hope however that technology is not creating such a barrier amongst persons in a public space. A research group on sociology from MIT conducted a series of research from 2008 to 2010 in an attempt to notice trends amongst media users in public and the companion situation they had around them. In an excerpt from the study we can identify the results.
“On the steps of the Met, only 3 percent of adults captured in all the samples were on their phones. It was highest at the northwest corner of Bryant Park, where the figure was 10 percent. More important, was the fact that mobile-phone users tended to be alone, not in groups. People on the phone were not ignoring lunch partners or interrupting strolls with their lovers; rather, phone use seemed to be a way to pass the time while waiting to meet up with someone, or unwinding during a solo lunch break.”
Obviously this is only one study done in a specific area but it shows that technology is providing a companion for those without physical companionship while perhaps not acting as a barrier to group interaction. I hope with more studies done this pattern can be repeated and techonolgy can truly be seen as a means to bring people together while not driving a wedge between those we are most closest to in a physical reality. In conclusion I believe that while technology is helping in starting one’s communication at a younger age it is damaging the social learning factors of physical communication however in regards to what extent being acted as a barrier to physical connection I am pleased to say that my presuppositions are now in doubt. I look forward to seeing further research on the subject matter.