[This content is part of an ongoing series titled ‘Civility is Dead‘. It aims to explore the emerging role of technology in our lives, and specifically, how these innovations continue to revise the ethics of communication for participants of the human experience.]
As the tools and methods we use to communicate change, so does what we communicate.
I’ll say that again because it’s bears repeating: as the tools and methods we use to communicate change, so does what we communicate. Not only does evolving technology heavily influence how we interact, but it also plays a critical role in determining what we express to one-another during these exchanges.
Within the world of technology, the rate at which dramatic innovation takes place defies both logic and explanation. It is not, however, without consistency. Even the most inconceivable of developments occur on such a reliably frequent basis that many of the most successful avant-garde inventors of our world do not dare to rest on their laurels. We know that technology is being redefined moment by moment, and that even now — even as you read this very sentence — somewhere on this earth human minds are at work to this end.
Change for technology, it seems, is not only an immutable fact of our civilization but also an important component of our personal lives. Technology is now at the core of the human experience — married to our lives and culture in ways that we don’t quite yet fully appreciate.
We live at a time when owning the newest phone and having the latest app is the vogue. We televise, applaud, and envy the fanatics that wait in line for days on end simply to acquire the latest and greatest devices. The media showers the tech world with a spotlight of affinity that, for some, is difficult to reconcile with the state of the world today. People are literally dying, countries are involved in unending war and political tribalism, and what’s making the headlines on Google News this week? Facebook’s sudden acquisition of WhatsApp, and the FlappyBird phenomenon: applications that, for better or worse, have landed on tens of millions of American devices.
Even when we consider our personal lives it becomes all too apparent that technology’s claws have drawn blood here, too. Consider the case of the smart phone, technology that’s hardly a decade old. In our culture today, not owning a smart phone is nothing short of taboo, and as someone that didn’t own one for a long time, can testify for the types of reactions one garners when offering this information. Huh, you don’t have one? Are you poor?
Imagine how your friends, family, and future employers would react if you declined the use of Facebook, a smart phone, or the internet. The terms “shock” and “awe” come to mind. The reality is that these platforms flagrantly (and publicly) command our attention and guide the social ethics of our world. But I digress.
The fact of technology’s change is undeniable — we open our eyes to the world around us and we can’t help but look on as the devices that consume our attention transform in unbelievable ways every day. But when we ask ourselves if this technology changes us, our answer begins to grows tenuous.