The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship

Sahil Showkat

Of course, technology impacts culture—destructively. For example, how could people living in the same house or workplace be looking at different screens and communicating with different people—some within the same physical space—without even considering that they could talk with each other face to face?
It never crosses their minds. How’s that for culture shock?
Technology is definitely changing how people interact with each other, and not always for the better. It also speaks quite loudly as to where our public spheres may be found (online instead of discussions at the dining room table or in meetings at work).
From social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. But we end up with neither friendship nor companionship. We feel, rather, isolated and abandoned, lonely and afraid of intimacy.
In our technology driven world, people expect to have the means to communicate with others at any given moment. Easy access to technology creates a situation that, when you look around, people are often using smartphones or using their computers to check on what’s happening in the world around them, providing a feeling of connectedness. But it’s a myth. Ease of connection to the online world does not equate to mutual understandings and shared common interests in any real sense. This approach of using technology has an impact on relationships. We are no longer a world that truly cares about others, only what others think about us, as we put on our fake Facebook faces, letting the world just how wonderful our lives are.
Who do we talk to about it, in person, face to face, when we’re conditioned to reach out online, asking for help that comes usually only in the form of platitudes and pleasantries that are so general they mean little to the hurting spirit or wounded heart? In the past, people were able to get together physically and discuss concerns. While the answers weren’t always helpful, they at least had some heart behind them.
Today’s social interaction is goal-driven; we have reasons for saying what we say, according to EmGriffen, Professor of Communication at Wheaton College. But with the speed of technology with which people respond, do we really consider the potential consequences of what we are conveying? We can get attention, be heard, and never have to be alone, but electronic communication doesn’t allow the time to think or listen to each other, what with the constant sensory stimulus of texts, tweets, Facebook updates, emails and more. We turn to technology for the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
As we expect more from technology, we start to expect less from each other. We often hide by sending messages electronically rather than discussing difficult issues in person. This is because of the belief that online is less personal and requires less effort to connect. In talking face to face, feelings and thoughts are more exposed. Thus, online, we can hide from each other. We’re not building relationships with each other, but building relationship with technology as if it’s a real thing. Technology doesn’t empathise, it doesn’t experience death or disappointments. We choose technology when we feel vulnerable as technology provides an illusion of comfort and of being in control.
Our current society is where it is today because of shifts in the mode of communication. This includes the ease of connecting through technology and communicating online, which impacts culture both locally and globally, as more and more people choose to communicate online instead of in person. Some believe this makes us worse human beings who care less about the real needs of real people.
So much for technology impacting culture in a positive way. Instead, it is destroying the very foundation that traditional society—one of close, cherished communication—was built on.

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