Technology in moderation

Nick Sallen, Copy editor

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Communication technologies have transformed our way of life indefinitely. We can connect with people who we might otherwise never meet, around the world, instantly. Social media is at the forefront of activism and organization of loosely connected people. New communities are created daily to serve our endless interests. But is all this connectivity driving out the meaningful, in-person connections that we form? I think, as a society, we have become addicted to the instant gratification that smartphones bring.

“My position is not anti-technology, it’s pro-conversation,” Sherry Turkle, the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, said at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Turkle and I share the belief that phones and other communication enhancing technologies are important in today’s world but that balance is key, and some people could benefit from putting their phones down.

One thing that frustrates me is when I’m trying to speak with someone who won’t get off their phone. It makes me feel like what I’m saying doesn’t matter.

To be a good conversationalist, you need to pay attention, show interest, make eye contact and respond in such a way that demonstrates understanding. Being on your phone at any point during a one-on-one conversation makes for a poor discussion because it violates the basic criteria. Even if you don’t mean to offend, answering texts and social media alerts while communicating can be taken as disrespectful. Your roommate probably won’t care that you do, but your boss likely will.

I will be the first to admit that I’m on my phone more than I should be. For me, it’s a problem when I should be winding down after a long day. I enjoy watching YouTube, listening to podcasts and scrolling through social media to relax. But oftentimes my phone is hindering my sleep. I tend to stay up later than I should with my face glued to the screen. To help myself unplug, I’ve started reading “Game of Thrones” before bed. After a couple of weeks, I’ve already noticed improvements in my sleep schedule and morning-time mood.

Since getting a bicycle, I have been biking to school and work. It’s awesome! I love Grand Forks in the fall and spring. However, I’ve had close calls on my bike and longboard with students who won’t lift their head to see me coming. When walking on campus someone will occasionally bump into me because they weren’t looking where they were going. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had a bad day, maybe their loved one is dying, maybe they are late to class. Answer that call or text. All I’m asking is to remain alert to your surroundings for everyone’s safety.

Phones are excellent tools for bringing people together. But I think some of us are overusing the privilege. It’s hard to know when to put your phone down. At the very least, I think we can all agree phones have no place at the dinner table.

Nick Sallen is a copy editor for Dakota Student. He can be reached at  [email protected]

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