Our oddly personal bond with tech


Deer in Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Technology in the modern world is oddly personal don’t you think? I mean, from the moment we open the box and hear that “chime” as the machine blinks to life for the first time, we’re connected to it in a strangely intimate way.

Not that long ago, technology was more external, something we didn’t “interact” with but used to achieve some specific purpose. While computers, tablets and smart phones are still helping us to go about our day-to-day lives, they’ve become far more than a tool, evolving rapidly into a sort of companion.

Computers and tablets have a very limited type of “artificial intelligence,” so to speak, but applications like the iPhone’s Siri make it feel that way to us. We somehow associate the digital voice as a friend or confidant.

In my day, a younger person would be far more likely to bond with his car than with the girl he likes in his math class. It was easier. The car won’t reject you, rip your heart out, stomp on it, set it on fire and spread the ashes in a mud hole. But, I digress, not that I harbor any bitterness.

Still, no matter how stoic or introverted, human beings are always crying out for some kind of connection, even if it comes from a talking toaster. I read recently that this bond is similar to the ones we develop with stuffed animal toys or that special blanket as children.

I’m reminded of science fiction over the years that portrayed what our eventual relationship to technology might be like. Artificial pets, like the robot dog from the classic “Battlestar Galactica,” or the artificial boy in the film, “AI.” Obviously, these are extreme examples of technology replacing flesh and blood companions, but how far away can that be?

If you don’t believe the analogies I’m making here, consider your own behavior. How often do you leave your smart phone somewhere and panic? What if your laptop or tablet computer crashes and won’t boot? Does your chest tighten and your breathing speed up?

Those of you still using a flip phone probably don’t feel it as strongly because the bond is different. With the older type phone, the feeling is more one of disconnection from communication than full out separation anxiety.

However “normal” all of this might seem in our high-tech world, I can’t help but think of its detrimental ramifications. After all, that “bond” I mentioned is artificial, but the emotional ties are very real.

You should take a moment to think of the connection between you and your technology. How is it helping or harming? Can you even tell either way? You’ll have to figure that one out on your own. But, for what it’s worth coming from me, if you indeed feel a high level of separation anxiety at the misplacement of your phone or computer, it might be time to disconnect.

For me, my devices and the Internet are how I get work done and stay in touch with people throughout the day. I’ve written several articles on disconnecting from the tech when you can, to give yourself a break from the anxiety and stress caused, mainly, by social media.

Most of these artificial bonds between man and machine have come from the fact that the technology continues to evolve faster than our education and social skills. When I first worked with computers, I was about 11 years old and you had to be a programmer to operate them.

The technology of the day is, in many cases, playing surrogate friend, servant, confidant, in a way that is rapidly changing how we, as individuals, relate to others. It may be time to take a look at the attachment you have with your own tech and put it aside for a day. Give yourself a break from the stress of social media, game apps, and so on, and have a conversation with a friend over coffee.

Building connections to people can be tough for someone as socially awkward as I was growing up. But technology is no substitute. Try always to remember your phone and computer are tools, not companions.

Deer in Headlines

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd., www.gerydeer.com.

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