Our So-called “Distracted Society”

By Jason Poggioli
I am fed up with, tired of, and even a bit angry over all the various opinions being strewn about how today’s technology and gadgets are diminishing the quality of human interactions in the Western World. Opinion pieces such as this one all imply that because we’re constantly connected to the Internet, posting on Facebook, reading tweets, or talking on our cell phones, we’re somehow missing the kind of personal relationships that we had thirty years ago.

Not only is this baloney, but it’s the kind of BS reminiscing in the style of “things were better when I was a kid” nonsense you heard from your grandparents when you were a kid. First off, for everything you can point to and label as “worse” I can point to something else and label it “better”. Secondly, though, I would go beyond just that and say the quality of life in the world is better, not worse, with the Internet and all the gadgets in our lives. Even with all the distractions.

Disputes with this viewpoint are boundless, so instead I’ll focus on how much better technology and the Internet are making our lives. I would gladly accept an embarrassing, rude, and inconvenient cell phone ring during a funeral wake in exchange for the unimaginable and staggering interconnectedness modern technology has brought to our lives.

Twenty years ago if I wanted to raise money to help cure a disease I could have held a bake sale on my block while today I can put together a website that, with a single click, can be accessed by two billion people in the blink of an eye. Not to mention the disparity between what the bake sale could raise compared with a website to the entire world.

Twenty years ago I could have opened the morning newspaper and read about some horrible genocide that occurred in some distant country while today I can turn on my computer and have a conversation with people experiencing it first hand.

Twenty years ago my circle of friends may have consisted of whatever group of people I happened to cross paths with in my nearby geographic area while today I can join online groups that consist of people from all six continents who have different perspectives about the world.

Twenty years ago if I had a chronic illness I depended on my doctor to diagnose and treat it correctly with perhaps a second opinion from a colleague while today I have the resources of the entire Internet to help with the treatment and I can turn to countless support groups in situations nearly identical to mine.

Along with the argument that our human-to-human interactions aren’t as deep and meaningful as they were before all this gadgetry there also tends to be an expression of fear that today’s kids aren’t learning key skills that are necessary for well adapted living. The possibility that children today might not learn cursive writing or multiplication tables doesn’t bother me in the least. I never learned how to shoe a horse or slaughter a chicken, but the world I grew up in didn’t require those skills of me. Will tomorrow’s children need to even know how to write legibly by hand? Have I somehow lost out on what life has to offer because I never learned how to skin a cow and cure leather?

Neither will tomorrow’s children.

2 Responses to “Our So-called “Distracted Society””

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    well put! those of us of certain ages need to embrace these changes and respect them. Technology has actually drawn my family and friends closer together. when my husband’s village in italy was destroyed by an earthquake, we were able to connect and know the complete story and that everyone was fine. i see my nieces and nephews unfold through FB and videos even though they live thousands of miles away. Younger cousins know more about their family ties through technology as well.

  2. Anita Says:

    Jason, those of us who grew up in the Fifties were fed a very skewed vision of what progress means. Some of us have come to understand that while technological advances make life easier and richer in some ways, they also can create unanticipated and sometimes lethal problems. Nuclear power is just one example.

    I agree with everything you say about the incredible opportunities the Internet provides–and I’m not for a second saying I wish it would go away–but I don’t think it’s B.S. to acknowledge there will be losses. Not knowing how to skin a cow? No big deal from my perspective. But relinquishing the ability to do math, for example, and to appreciate the beauty of numbers, I think would be a significant loss.

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