Monday, November 22, 2010

Civility - Part 2

You know how you never see a particular color and make/model of a car until you buy one – then you see them everywhere? Well, that is how the Today Show series on civility hit me earlier this month. It had already been a topic in a couple of meetings I’d been in recently; and then when the series aired, it seemed like there were stories and articles everywhere I looked.

One interesting part of the discussion is how technology, social media, and gadgets have begun to affect our relationships. I’ve heard stories of people sitting next to each other and texting rather than talking face-to-face. Unless you are plotting a clandestine operation and need covert communication, it seems like a big missed opportunity to connect with a friend or family member. Instead of typing a smiley face, you can actually look them in the face and smile or make a silly face. Instead of typing something that means hug, give them a hug – they’re right beside you. One of the biggest drawbacks to written correspondence is not having the advantage of communicating with facial expressions and gestures, so don’t give up that advantage by texting the person sitting next you instead of speaking to them face-to-face.

It actually seems like the more connected technology allows us to be, the more disconnected we become. There are a couple of interesting things I’ve found on this topic. One is a blog titled The Collapse of Civility. The title of one of the posts is Anonymity – Familiarity’s Ugly Cousin and the Bane of Civility. Here is a quote that caught my attention, “The darkest aspect of technology… is the lack of responsibility and accountability that the anonymity of a virtual personality provides. The disconnectedness of being constantly connected manifests in the tendency for human beings to say things…that they would never, ever say in the presence of a real live human being.” It makes you stop and think. Sitting in front of a computer, as opposed to sitting in front of a person, shouldn’t give anyone license to disconnect the filter that is supposed to stop things you are thinking from just jumping right out of your mouth…or fingers, as the case may be.

There is also an article that appeared in The New York Times in June titled “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In” by Julie Scelfo. Here is the study that prompted it, “Sherry Turkle, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. After five years and 300 interviews, she has found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread. Her findings will be published in “Alone Together” early next year by Basic Books.”

Personally, I am a self-professed techno geek; so I love technology, new technology, new software, and figuring out how I might be able to integrate them into my classes. I also realize that I sometimes have an issue with not taking a break from technology. Earlier this year, my cellphone upgrade kicked in and I upgraded to an iPhone. At the same time, I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to become addicted…and I was right. Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up any of my tech tools or boycotting social media. But, at the risk of sounding a little Kumbaya, I think I’ll be a little more aware of where and when I use it—especially heading into the holidays where I really want to be with family and friends and give and receive real, live smiles and hugs.

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