You probably got wind of the Harrisburg, PA university that banned Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and IMing last week. Some media claim it was a failure, others that it was a success. But best of all, it’s a conversation.
Who among us hasn’t found ourselves running to some kind of technology in our lives when we wanted to feel needed and recognized? How we do run to check phone messages, email or Facebook, or hook into some TV characters we feel comfortable with. I guess sometimes we just need a dose of reassurance, or even a quick fix of connection with no strings attached. It feels a little like a cheater’s way to create ties.
For me, this experiment is a reminder of the ever-expanding set of choices we have about the kinds of relationships we build. With more places to turn that have less and less two-way responsibility, it’s no wonder these technological nets have us in their grasp.
It is helpful to remember that technology is supposed to help us, not create substitutes, walls or screens for human relationships. The definition of technology is: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. How practical is 147 minutes per week for the average college student in America on Facebook? Is that a tool or a crutch?
I’m all for tools. But I do think that our human tendency to shrink away from challenges, to stall taking action, and to retreat into self-soothing habits that aren’t productive are all aided immensely by the services of 21st Century technology. We’ll keep using it for sure, but maybe we can wise up around why we’re using it when to apply the practical side of it.
So the next time I come into the house and find myself running to check email, I think I’ll check my motivation first. Am I looking to feel popular today? Or is this really a communication tool? Am I watching the same NCIS episode as a low-return way to relax and zone out, or am I seeking entertainment?
Whatever happens to the conversation started this week, mostly I hope it stays with us as a personal conversation within ourselves. It’s hard to run into great experiences and great relationships on a tube or a screen. Life goes on around the screen, not in it. So I’m hoping this is a reminder, once again, to get off the computer and into the world.