We are living in a time of rapid change. The technology that is revolutionary today is being replaced tomorrow. Technology is changing how we live our lives, plan our futures, and build relationships. In this digital age, we may wonder where it is heading.
As Amazon unveils its cashless store where shoppers just grab and go, former executives to some of the largest technology and social media companies continue to speak out about the problems these new innovations can cause.
What is the answer? Is technology ripping apart the world, or are the advances the way to finally unite us all?
How Is Technology Uniting Us?
Over 7.4 billion people live on Earth speaking 7,106 languages. For centuries, connecting with others in distant parts of the globe was arduous and even dangerous. Letters could be written but would take months to reach their destination. Even finding a contact in a far off land was a monumental task.
As the technology of travel improved, interconnectedness was established. Crossing the ocean or flying to the other side of the world took hours, not month or years. Postal routes became well organized and mail could seamlessly be transported from a home mailbox to virtually anywhere on the planet.
The advent of computers and the Internet changed anything. Messages could circumnavigate the globe in minutes, even seconds. A new era of global relationships began. Now finding someone in the far reaches of the world became as easy as a click of a button.
Events, such as Global Learn Day, became possible. We are very thankful for the technology that can unite us in ways that were just science fiction a generation ago. (Still no flying cars, but we can virtually meet face to face!)
How Has Technology Divided Us?
With all these advances the possibilities have grown and our ability to experience people, places, and events has reached further and further distances. However, at the same time the connects at home has broken down.
The fabric of socialization and community has moved from block parties to virtual communities and Facebook groups. The art of conversation is being lost, and despite our growing interdependence and resources, more people feel isolated than before.
Is Social Media Tearing Us Apart?
The dangers and disadvantages of social media have been in the spotlight recently. Cyber-bullying has created a suicide crisis among children, some as young as 8. Social media and smart phone addiction are on the rise. Face to face interaction, even with video conferencing technology, is becoming rare.
As technology advances and infiltrates every aspect of or lives, the connectivity that provides for a healthy and stable lifestyle has waned. As we stare into our screens and build up our networks, more and more people feel isolated and alone. A 2016 Harris Poll showed that 72% of American regularly feel lonely, one third of those suffer from loneliness at least once a week.
Is social media to blame? The answer isn’t an easy yes or no. The phenomenon of social media certainly has its downfalls. Coupled with smartphone addiction, the future may look grim.
The fact is that social media has the power to rip us apart but it also is an amazing vehicle for collaboration. In building up global connects, we must also invest our time and energy locally, being a force for good in our homes, communities, and countries.
The upcoming generation is the first to have grown up on social media. Their birth was announced via Facebook, their birthdays and school projects planned via Pinterest, and they “meet” their friends not on the sidewalk but in Snapchat. Setting up healthy boundaries and teaching good digital citizenship to these young people is vital. It isn’t enough for them to know how to use the technology, they must learn how to use it well and for good.
How Do We Go Forward with Technology?
Technology is here to stay and is so very ingrained in daily life, it would be catastrophic for it to be swept away. As the shortcomings and dangers of this brave new world continue to be learned and fill the headlines, we must work to take what is good from our new found freedoms and continue to build a world of connections.
Education can unite the world, education not just taught by technology but education of how to effectively use it. As we build a global community, we must also encourage the development and preservation of our local communities. Teaching children how to reach out across the world wide web, but still interact and build friendships in real life. This is an arduous task and one that we are still very much learning how to do.
With great power comes great responsibility. We are at a crossroads for the increasing power of modern technology and social media. How will we use this power? It is the responsibility of each of us to wield it for good!
The human connection will always be the true tie that binds us close at home and across continents and oceans. Want to join our discussion on the future of education and global connections? Become a member of our Friends of Global Learn Day Facebook group.