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Opinion: Social Distancing And The Rise Of The Machines

By April 20, 2020April 21st, 2020No Comments

The Mixed Blessing of Humanity and our Smartphones

For those fortunate enough to work, learn, and stay at home: everything has migrated online and to a screen. The matter of monitoring one’s screen time is not as pressing. Our relationships with our mobile phones and other devices have shifted, at least for the time being, and likely into the near future.

Prior to the time of social distancing , our relationship with our devices was objectively frowned upon. Checking them at any hour throughout the day just to fit in that extra text message, email, or  scroll through Instagram was considered a “bad practice”. Parents were continuously advised by healthcare professionals that an overt amount of screen time was ill-advised for growing children. We were told that smartphones affected social and romantic relationships, to set limits on device usage, and leave more time for face-to-face communication.

Now, we need our digital devices more than ever. To send a quick “How are you?”, say hello to a grandparent, communicate with our managers — and, of course, logging your child onto Google Classroom to give them the education they deserve. If they hadn’t been already, devices have become our lifelines to connect with anyone and anything outside the front door.

Does our suddenly necessary relationship with technology override its unhealthy nature? 

 If not, where do we go from here?

The ways in which we have managed to maintain some level of normalcy in the last 6 weeks largely rely on our devices.. Our dependence on checking every notification, responding to every email, and creating group chats from bio-family to work family has helped us adapt to this new world. Without hesitation, we hopped onto family Zoom meetings for Sunday dinners and found online games to play with friends. In a blink of an eye, industries from arts to finance to healthcare adapted to the changes by offering teleconferencing and virtual sessions. The persistence of organizations large and small to maintain customer loyalty and strengthen relationships between partners has not stopped.

It seems the devices that were once considered  unhealthy have now become vital: the tools that keep us in business, keep us in school, and keep us in touch. The cloth of human interaction which was once sewn with handshakes and laughter without WiFi delay is now torn up and replaced with our touch screens and keyboards. 

When the curve finally flattens, when restaurants and schools open back up and we are asked to return to our desks on floor seventeen, what will come of our interactions with one another, and where will our relationship with our devices stand? Industries and organizations around the world have survived and thrived in this pandemic — adapting and making do with what we are left with: a screen. So what will happen when we are once again, allowed to conduct in-person meetings, conferences, and networking coffee chats? Will we still want to check our phones at every minute? Or will we savor our “real world” experiences more? Will we look up from our phones more often? Will children want less iPad time and more play dates?

Like all other factors of this season: it is unknown. What we do know, however, is that our devices continue to be an extension of our existence, a replication of our words, faces, and voices. They are blocks of our personalities in tiny little pixels.

So where does that leave us?

Meg & SA

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