Digitalisation: Friend or Foe of human interaction?

Increased digitalisation, benefit or curse?

In a world in constant search for innovation, digitalisation is taking over most of our life. There is an ongoing debate about how digitalized our world is becoming and whether our increasing digitalisation is a benefit or a curse.

While there are many negative aspects of technology addiction brought to such debates, one of the most disputed and recurrent topic is how the rapid expansion of technology seems to negatively affect face-to-face communication instead of making us feel more connected. This article will focus on this point particularly, as there would be too many points to discuss them all at once.

technology-makes-us-feel-less-connected

Being connected VS Face-to-face communications

There is no discussion that technology has allowed us to remain in constant contact with family and friends all over the world. By technology here, we mean the use of devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, giving us access to all sort of social medias platforms and applications through the internet. However, these technologies that were firstly created to connect more easily with one another, are now at the center of many debates as they seem to have a conflicting result. Indeed, it has become such an integral part of the way we communicate with one another, that it is increasingly taking the place of face-to-face communication.  In her study on The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication, Emily Drago explains how « people are becoming more reliant on communicating with friends and family through technology and are neglecting to engage personally, uninhibited by phones and devices, even when actually in the presence of others ». It results in a majority of individuals feeling the quality of their conversations degrading in the presence of technology, and many individuals feeling bothered when friends or family use technology while spending time together.

Increased sense of loneliness

There seems to lye the perverse effect of technology. As The Independent explains in its article The loneliness epidemic, instead of making us feel more connected, technology would make us feel more alone. Some research findings even are quite alarming as they explain how this could be the next biggest public health issue on par with obesity and substance abuse, as loneliness increases mortality risk by 26%.

The example of Amazon Go

With the continuous merging of technologies that allows less and less human interaction, it seems that this increased sense of loneliness is not going to slow down. This increasing « connected but unconnected » state we evolve in can be illustrated by the appearance of new technologies such as Amazon Go for example. The revolutionary app slogan says it all, “No lines, no checkout, just grab and Go”. A demonstration of this new app can be seen in the video below:

As Amazon explains on its website the promotion of its new app Amazon Go that should be out early 2017, this walk-out technology allows « a checkout free experience by automatically detecting when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart ». When done shopping, you can just leave the store, without any interaction with a cashier or else needed. Shortly after, Amazon will charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.

Generations Gap

As many other journals and magazines that love to controverse on these debates, The Huffington Post explains in its article From Gen X to Y and Z: Technology and the Generation Gap that this continuous advancement in technology, such as Amazon Go, scares an important number, especially the older generations who often feel overcome by the use of such technologies and by the tremendous speed of change. This result can be even more understandable as many of them do not even own a cell phone or computer sheltering all these apps, as the table shows below. And without these devices, they have absolutely no chances of entering the technology world, the world of today.

percentage-of-american-adults-in-each-generation-who-own-each-device

The members of these older generations who were borned long before the appearance of such technologies also feel more and more personally and professionally disconnected from the younger generations who, being born in it, easily adapt to the technology evolution and shape their world according to this evolution (The Telegraph – Gen Z, Gen Y, baby boomers – a guide to the generations). The gap between these generations gets more important with every new technology out on the market. This causes a lot of controversies, causing the medias to often devilise important technology advancements as Amazon Go, instead of promoting their advantages and inviting these older generations to embrace them.

However, wouldn’t it be wiser for these generations to accept and to adapt to this inevitably advancement than to reject it and feel overwhelmed by these changes? Of course, just as the newspaper The Guardian explains in its recent article, it can be argued that technologies like Amazon Go will reduce jobs such as cashiers, maybe even restructure the economy by changing relationships between businesses and employees. But why not looking at the positive side of the change rather than dwelling on it? Doesn’t it create more employment and opportunities in the engineering or research fields among many others for example? And more than this, couldn’t it be rather seen as a gain of time to spend more time with family and friends than to wait in line and have a small talk with a cashier (who most probably wishes for a better job)?

The bottom line of this article is that things are and will always be evolving. In fact, change is one of the only constants in our lives, so why not embrace this new frontier with an open heart, by being both cautious and grateful for it? Change will always come to this: how we take it and choose to make it ours.

tip

Want a family interaction? Cut the WIFI in the house and everyone will be in the living-room in less that 2 minutes, promise. Maybe even less than 30 seconds. 

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