Free time! – Provided to you by your washing machine, consumed by your smartphone
Once upon a time, technology wanted the best for us. It wanted to make our lives easier. It wanted to do our laundry for us, it wanted to wash our dishes for us. Tough work was done by technology, so that we could spend more time with our kids, read books, go to the movies and broaden our horizons. Women especially benefited from this as they had more time to cultivate themselves and also their children. Then suddenly technology began to claim that too much cultivation was bad. Technology was furious. You can’t just leave me like that. I provided you with some extra time so that you can use that time on ME!
This is how a fairytale about our love-hate relationship with technology would look like.
Technology – Friend or Foe?
Every once in a while, we all get confronted with the argument that technology is bad for us and we stumble upon countless numbers of links which try to warn us about the dangers of excessive usage of new technologies like smartphones (whether these are scientifically proven or not). Some of these warning include the claims that it can cause social isolation and that virtual communication and social media might prevent us from learning real life face-to-face communication skills. And what about cyber-bullying? It took bullying on to a whole new level. Kids can hardly escape from it, even in their own homes. Additionally, we have been told that we get exposed to sexual content much younger than ever before, which may cause confusion and difficulty in regulating sexual boundaries.
We are also told that we have become desensitized by what we encounter in our news feeds every day. Overexposure to violence seen on video games, movies and TV causes aloofness to the worlds’ sufferings. It “kills our ability to empathise”. Technology is “creating a subculture of emotional flatliners”. It “interrupts our sleep”. The list can go on like this forever and besides… “Can we just put the phone down!?“.
If you are hearing this phrase too often nowadays, you may consider listening to Lior Frenkel and find out about digital dieting. He may not help you lose weight (there are Apps for that!) but he may help you save grey matter in your brain.
Is technology a double-edged sword?
According to Frenkel, using new technologies irresponsibly can certainly can have harmful effects on you. Is this where the story ends? Definitely not. What if technology is also able to teach empathy, instead of killing the ability to empathise as suggested? This idea comes from Chris Kluwe, a former American football player. He says, technologies such augmented reality may help us put ourselves in someone elses’ shoes. Augmented reality (AR) blends the users’ environment in real time with digital imagery and data. In other words, it uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it, giving users more information about their environments. Kluwe emphasises that we can’t use this power solely for entertainment purposes when it may as well be a tool for building empathy. Still, something is missing in his story…
What is empathy?
Is empathy just our ability to recognize and understand others’ mental states? Or is this just where empathy starts? After you find out what the other person is going through, how will you use this information? Will you be able to act accordingly? Augmented reality will not solve all of the worlds’ problems, but it definitely can take away our excuses for not taking the step to make our world a better place.
Photo credit: Cover image by Pixabay