#Connected

The Sun sets on the Charles
Photo Credit: Romaisa Shah

The sun glittered like molten gold as the sun set on the Charles River. The way different shades of color blended into one another on a canvas of clouds was absolutely breathtaking. I soaked in the moment; just standing by the water, breathing nature in. Yet after those few minutes of solitude, I wanted to capture the moment by camera and post it on Facebook. Reveling alone in the moment was not enough. I wanted to share it, tweet perfectly instagrammed pictures of it.

Rousseau once said “Man is born free and yet everywhere he lives in chains.” (Social Contract). Sometimes I feel that in the 21st century, technology might be the chains that bind us. With our eyes glued to screens, and our hands fettered to QWERTY keyboards, are we really free to be ourselves? Can 140 character tweets, and “what’s on your mind” statuses really reflect what it means to be human? Rousseau said man in the state of nature was free; but we’ve come a long way from that state. It’s easy to escape reality in the world of social media. As people live tweet Real Madrid games, instagram Super Moons and Four Square every place they’ve ever checked-in, how authentic is our human experience? What drives our urge to share moments in our lives with loved ones and friends, but even increasingly with strangers?

In my anthropology class on evolution, my professor emphasized man’s primal need to connect with others around him. Man, like other primates is driven by an urge to live in communities and create social bonds. In fact, it is these ties and connections that led man’s advancement over other creatures. But can technology strengthen these ties, or have we regressed into artificial forms of social interactions where these bonds diminish. After all, you cannot truly feel emotion over texts and posts. You have the option to turn it all off.

Sherry Turkle put it the best:

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

Has our increasing need to connect to those around us unconsciously caused us to drift apart from them? Some argue that social skills continue to diminish as a result of social media, which will be an ironic twist of affairs. As we type away our thoughts on internet forums to an audience that may or may not listen to us, how far do we bridge the gap between connectivity and connection?

As human interactions continue to evolve in strange and unexpected ways, it’s interesting to consider if we’ll end up disconnecting ourselves from all things human. Will our need for customized gadgets, carefully selected music, edited timelines, and even our own newspapers lead us to marrying the perfect robot one day?

Blogging about all this:  irony at its best 🙂

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17 thoughts on “#Connected

  1. Sometimes I feel like that too – that my need for technology is taking control. I’ll be getting an Android phone this summer, and I know (and am really excited about) that I’ll be able to Tweet non-stop. And when I see something pretty, I say, oh, let’s take a picture of that.
    We’re all turning into semi-robots.

    1. I feel like I don’t experience things the same anymore. I attend a conference jotting down blog pointers; I take pictures and put them on Facebook; I read an article and have the urge to tweet it. It’s insane =/

  2. But. . . I like being a robot :p Our relationship with technology is complicated and that’s what the charm is 😉

  3. Year 3057: Human Kind Has Conquered Galaxies, Used Stars As Power Sources, Traveled At The Speed Of Light –Their Evolution Stopped Centuries Ago- Due To The Lack Of Reason.

    (JustSaying)

    Having a robot is not that bad, At least they can cook you unlimited food without any problem. 😉

    1. Hmm true! Like all addictions, you just need incredible self-discipline when dealing with social media addictions. Completely cutting off for a few days helps

  4. Nice blog post, and being a Computer Science PhD researcher investigating social media from an analytical viewpoint I can relate to much of what you said. In fact this has given birth to a whole new research area within Computer Science namely HCI and Social Computing. Just read a related paper on it few days back, you can find it here http://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/ICWSM/ICWSM11/paper/download/2828/3239, would love your thoughts on study in this paper.

    I am also investigating some of these questions for my PhD thesis. Would love to interact with you regarding this topic.

    1. Sorry about such a late reply, exams kept me busy. But just read the paper you posted, and I was very interested to see how social displacement wasn’t positively affected. Intuitively one would think that would be the case, but seems that the increase of family members/close friends on social networking websites enhances real-time face-face interactions more than diminish their importance. Thank you for sharing it!

  5. Gosh! I accidently clicked on ‘send’ without finishing what I wanted to write.

    Anyways I wanted to edit my last sentence…..last week I watched Sherry Turkle’s TED talk and had been trying so hard to write a blog on what she discussed and how true it had been for me. I struggled to write it….but your blog had been spot on what I wanted to write about! :))

  6. Salam!
    I think that when a person becomes goal-oriented and set targets in life along with keeping himself busy in making strong relation with Allah ( by spending time in prayer , zikr etc) , then these things do not interfere in his matters. I observed this thing personally as these days I am having vacations and getting bored at home, so I spend my time on social media, using my phone and laptop etc. Therefore, looking forward to work on some project to get rid of boredom 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your views! Completely agree with you about goals, productivity vs. being letting technology take over our lives =)

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