Navigating the Sea of Communications Technology: Sink or Swim?

I’ve been thinking about the mind-blowing way technology has made its way into every crack and crevice, every hour, minute, and second of our lives.

Watching my favorite show, Breaking Bad, last Sunday night, I was astounded at how many times during the hour I saw a commercial for a mobile phone or mobile-related product. Do people do dumb things with smartphones? Do we need an app to tell us how we rate on the moron meter, or one to show us how we’d look with ginger hair? Apparently yes, we most certainly do.

Yes, I need my laptop, smart phone, itouch, wireless router, modem, Bluetooth-Satellite-Radio-OnStar-enabled car, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They help me make a better living, travel more safely, and connect in miraculous new ways with friends, relatives, and colleagues.

But are they the center of my universe, the be-all and end-all of how I communicate?

Call me old school, but I also like things that don’t require technology and thumbs. Like walking my dog (she communicates with me nicely without any thumbs). And talking with people who are actually in the same room with me, when they’re not using technology to talk with someone else while I’m talking to them.

These people—the technology natives whose appendages include two arms, two legs, and a cell phone each—are my kids. While I’m infinitely thankful that I can call or text them to find out how they’re doing at any moment, instantly share a photo I’ve just snapped on a business trip, or reach them quickly in an emergency, nothing replaces the warmth of their smiles and the comfort of their hugs.

I want them to know that while I value technologically enhanced communication, nothing comes close to the intonations of a voice, the firmness of a handshake, and the power of looking someone straight in the eyes.

I want them to realize that technology shouldn’t replace other (more intimate) forms of communication. Rather, it should complement and enhance them. And that the choice as to whether they allow the increasingly overwhelming technologies to create emotional distance and separation, or they work hard at building meaningful relationships while using technology to add depth and breadth, is theirs.

As with exercise, diet, spirituality, giving, and any other body- or character-building endeavor, successful communication takes commitment, time, and effort, and discipline. Knowing how to choose appropriately the best form, or combination of forms, of communication for the situation is key. It’s my job as a parent to teach my kids how, when, and why to make those appropriate choices. Which is why I embrace communications technology and look to glean from it those things that add richness to life. And I pounce on “teachable moments” with my kids in which I can instill a balanced, high-tech/high-touch philosophy of communication.

Recently I was reading a blog about this issue of technology changing—or as some would suggest, killing­—the way we communicate. The writer put it aptly:

“If you live next to the ocean, do you ban your kids from going to the beach? Or do you teach them to swim? And how can you teach them to swim, if you yourself don’t know how? Don’t understand waves, rip currents, [and] tides? Our kids are awash in a sea of ubiquitous communications technology, and it’s our responsibility as parents, teachers, and adults to be masters in that, and teach them how to swim.”

by Anne Flanagan
Marketing Strategist and Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District 

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