The Disadvantages of Technology on Communication
By Laurel Storm
As modern technology grows and advances by leaps and bounds, so too does its effect on our life and society. The impact of technological improvements on communication, in particular, has been extensive and largely positive, helping people keep in touch with each other more effectively and efficiently. However, you need only look at the nearest gaggle of teenagers glued to their cell phones to realize that there are also plenty of downsides from technology's impact on communication.
The Lost Art of Conversation
Technology such as text messages and email allows us to communicate in short, carefully-edited sentences that lack immediacy and completely remove the contextual information provided by tone of voice and body language. As a result, people who connect with others primarily through technology might find it difficult to engage in normal conversation, since they may have issues understanding non-verbal cues due to lack of practice with face-to-face interaction that can't be paused, edited or filtered.
Books, dictionaries and treatises have been written on the vocabulary and peculiarities of online and text messaging slang. This slang can prove extremely confusing for people who are not native English speakers, making it harder to discern the meaning of a sentence; people who regularly text or chat online may end up using it, out of sheer habit, even in situations where it is inappropriate or out of place, such as in business messages or school essays.
Because communicating through technology creates a barrier between people that isn't there when speaking face to face, some may find it easier to be rude and aggressive. Insulting or threatening messages from anonymous commenters are par for the course for anybody who regularly publishes online content, and even lack of anonymity doesn't alleviate the issue -- Facebook arguments and the like are also relatively common. Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT, suggests that this happens because technology keeps us from having to see the reaction of the person on the receiving end of the message, making it harder to empathize with him.
Technology allows us to always be reachable if we want to be, no matter where we are or what we're doing. Although this can be beneficial, it may also lead to a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety in which people feel pressured to immediately check and answer any incoming messages, emails or phone calls regardless of whether it is appropriate, for fear of being seen as inadequate or inattentive. In turn, this can potentially cause the breakdown of the very same relationships the person is trying to maintain.
Laurel Storm has been writing since 2001, and helping people with technology for far longer than that. Some of her articles have been published in "Messaggero dei Ragazzi", an Italian magazine for teenagers. She holds a Master of Arts in writing for television and new media from the University of Turin.