Is technology ruining our social lives and relationships?

Michael Aulia
Is technology ruining our social lives and relationships?

Technology is great. It gives us access to certain information and the ability to connect with people easier and quicker.

Can you imagine a world without internet these days? Or perhaps without a smartphone? Back in the early 90s, I didn't have such luxury.

We met people when we said we would (if they didn't turn up, we waited until they did). We queued on a book to be borrowed from the library because there was no such thing as Internet research. To communicate, we called people at home or through a public phone, engaged in real conversations and laughter (not a "LOL" even when we don't actually laugh). We expanded our social connections through meet-ups and face-to-face introductions.

So isn't the world better now?

We now have access to any information we like through our WiFi connection at home or when walking about. Through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc), we can even find our long-lost childhood friends or connect to new business acquaintances.

We can chat to our friends anytime, anywhere, with relatively low or no cost. With attractive and informative apps, our kids can learn more quickly in the most engaging ways. Business responds and thrives quicker because we can communicate to our clients instantly, sending our work through attachments and emails.

No complaints, right?

I don't know about you, but I see the other sides of these positives as well. For example:

  • People tend to use chatting tools and emails to communicate to one another nowadays. It sounds good on the surface, but you cannot really get to know the person without talking face to face. Emotions can be hidden away (despite even the most excessive use of emoticons) and miscommunications happen far too often. Sometimes it feels awkward to actually talk and express your feelings or thoughts without having your hands to type.
  • Lost with directions? No problem, there is always an app for that. With cars' built-in GPS and free maps on your smartphones, you will never lose your way again. An update is even being rolled out so you can find your way to the toilet inside a department store. No one seems to ask a stranger for directions anymore. When I first came to Melbourne, I was amazed at how friendly Melbourne people are (still am!). They are really helpful when tourists ask for directions and as such you can really feel the joy of coming into this city. Now it feels more satisfying when we find our own directions through the gadget in front of us.
  • Being in awkward situations with people? There is always our smartphone for that. We subconsciously take our phone out and stare at it for no reason when mixed with a group of strangers. Family and friends' dinner tables are full with gadgets and smartphones to tinker when we should be communicating with one another.
  • Kids (and us) get agitated when told to put the gadgets and games away. We unleash our self-defense mechanisms and come up with a hundred excuse, feeling annoyed. Kids cry and scream until you give them their iPad back.

People break up (or propose) through emails and text messages. We prefer to stare at our gadget's screen than force ourselves to make a connection with those around us.

So what do you think? On the one hand, it is true that we can now connect more easily with our loved ones through video calls, chat applications, emails, and all, but on the other, do they actually improve our relationships? Or are there times when they don't? We'd like to hear your opinion in the comments below.

Michael Aulia is a technology blogger at Craving Tech.