Technology leads to isolation from others, the world

T By Dan Obst

thousands of years ago, our cavemen ancestors lived in a world drastically different than that in which we exist today. Their waking hours were spent in a struggle to find food, to find water, to fend off cold, to keep away predators; in short, they were completely absorbed in a fight to survive. Today, we, their distant relatives, can only cast backward guesses as to what their lives must have actually been like, what they must have felt and what they must have thought and cared about. It is nearly impossible to us, in the 21st century, to imagine the sort of lives they must have led, completely devoid of artificial noise, light, intelligence and life. Technological advances of the human race, expressly those of the past several decades, might have set us even further apart from our ancient progenitors, but it is my belief that today, in our leather recliners and juice bars and towers of glass and steel, that we are infinitely lonelier than our relations of ten million yesteryears ever were.

I hate myself sometimes. I hate what I have become. I watch myself slowly slipping away from anything true and real in this world, and I hate all of you for letting me go. I hate the way our modern world, by our own doing, has forced all of us into separate spheres of loneliness, isolated and detached from any semblance of true human contact. Technology has begun to overrun our lives, distancing us from other people with every television, phone and Internet cable installed.

There are an infinite number of ways in which technology has enhanced our lives. However, there are an equal, if not greater, number of ways in which technology has distanced us from real human contact. In an average day, I see dozens of people talking on cell phones, more than oblivious to the rest of their surroundings. Instead of looking around and noticing the beauty that is the everyday world, they walk hurriedly with their eyes on the ground, straining to hear faint words through harsh static. The voices filtering through from miles away are but recreations of an actual voice, just as many things today are either recreated or artificial.

The Internet, while opening up endless avenues of information, has brought along with it another devil of the modern world: instant messaging. I remember reading, in a high school history class, through several letters written by 18-year-old boys who had been recruited as soldiers for the Civil War. We read letters to parents, brothers and sisters, and also many letters from these soldiers to their sweethearts back at home. The astonishing thing is that these boys, barely men, wrote sprawling, eloquent letters to loved ones, full of tenderness, emotion and beautifully crafted language. Back then, teenagers could communicate with phrases such as “I yearn for you tragically,” whereas today, thanks to instant messaging programs, the phrases “LOL” and “j/k” have entered the national lexicon.

In today’s modern age we are not only separated from other people, but from the beauty of nature as well. We live, work and even commute in cushy, climate-controlled buildings and vehicles that suit our every possible “need” with grace, comfort and style. In the summer we relax in air-conditioned office buildings and homes, and in the winter we simply turn up the thermostat a few notches if we are cold. While this obviously has its advantages – at least in terms of practical living in the 21st century – it shelters us from knowing what true life is like. We can go on autumn walks and feel falling leaves crackle beneath our feet, and we can certainly gaze in wonder at freshly-fallen snow, but we do not have as immediate an understanding.

As I have previously mentioned, technology has obviously given us many wonderful tools for living and has also brought us leaps and bounds in terms of medical science. Technology can make communication from halfway around the globe not only feasible but easy as well. It can make diagnosing and curing an illness simpler than in days past. Technology can, and does, do many extraordinary things for us in today’s society and will continue to do so for generations to come. However, when I speak of technology with such contempt, it is not these things to which I am referring. We have come to rely on some kinds of technology as a crutch, simply because they are simple and fast. It is precisely this sort of laziness, one that has developed along with many aspects of technology, that I wish to change. Technology has the potential to bring people closer together, and indeed it has done so in numerous instances. However, what saddens me so greatly is a trend that becomes more and more apparent by the hour, and that is of people who are slowly losing touch with other people.

It is easier to dial someone on a cell phone than it is to go and visit them. It is much easier to send an e-mail than it is to write a letter. It is easier to sit inside in the comfort of our living room and watch the snow fall than it is to step outside into the cold and truly experience that monumental silence. My sole point is that we must refuse to give in to all of these eases. We must remember that not all good things in this life are the easiest to come by. Turn off your cell phones and listen to the silence, wherever you might encounter it. I beg you to go outside and notice the beauty of our natural surroundings. I beg of you to make the simple gesture of hugging someone, or writing a heartfelt letter to a distant friend that you have lost touch with over the years. We need to open our eyes to what life can be: simple, beautiful and pure.

Dan Obst is a College of Liberal Arts freshman. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send comments to [email protected]