Technology is a Symptom

Depression. Anxiety. Adolescent angst.

The tail end of Turkle’s book, Alone Together, focuses on topics of betrayal, escapism, anxiety, and how technology impacts each of these areas.

Turkle relies on extreme cases, but I saw a lot of powerful insights in the areas she explored.

Examples of individuals struggling with employment, social interaction and life in general found comfort online.  We hear the familiar story: life on the screen moves from being better than nothing to simply being better. Technology at first is a substitute. An escape. And eventually turns into everything the person has.

Dwight from The Office and Second Second Life:

I kept questioning in my head: If not technology, what else would it be? Alcohol, drugs, infidelity? Some crutch would exist. Isn’t this really a topic better fitting under the umbrella of psychology? There are people using this exact technology in a responsible, non-addictive way.  Technology, in this case, really is simply a symptom.

The second, less extreme example, I found really interesting was Turkle’s description of gathering of people around a game. It looked a lot like a sewing bee. Or a book club. Technology replaces a less shiny topic, which individuals gather around. Is this so bad?

Mindfulness.

In the Rheingold reading, the boomerang effective of technology was prevalent. So many of us are not aware of how obsessively we are using technology. Teenagers sleeping with a cell phone under the pillow, to people physically holding cell phones (look around next time you are out, it is actually shocking how many people don’t just have a cell phone “with” them, they have the cell phone in their grips).  I really believe there will be a boomerang effect with technology: stepping back (willingly or not) to examine the use of technology, and our connectedness will someday have a comfortable middle ground.

Simulation. It can be good.

In my world (healthcare), technology and simulation are positive, life saving things. Clinicians practice complex life saving procedures on manikins who have nothing to lose. The environment is safe, thoughtful and when the skills are moved from the virtual or practice life into the real world, they pay great dividends.

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