“Technology has made us worse communicators, not better.” Do you agree?

Essay 1: Adapted from “KS Bull 2012 Issue 1”

Since the beginning of time, communication has existed as the foundation for humans in establishing relationships and conveying ideas. Such a primal and almost instinctual need for such a means of interaction has, of course, spurred people throughout the ages to create better ways to expedite the process of communication. The boom in technology in the 21st century is testament to that trend. While electronic devices such as computers and cell phones ha e served to make us more efficient communicators, it is still unclear if these improvements have made us more effective communicators.

Efficiency, in communication brought about by technology can be seen in a practical sense. If anything, we have definitely become better communicators in utilizing the resources available to us to convey our ideas in a faster and more concise manner. Gone are the days when snail mail was the only means of long-distance interaction; when a message intended for a person across the country had to endure several days in the postal service. Today, e-mails and text messaging have become staple means of long-distance communication, which is understandable as messages are delivered to the intended recipient with just a single click or touch of a button. Such efficiency has been made possible by the invention of cell phones and the Internet, and all these fall under the large umbrella of technology. Furthermore, the very fact that these means of communication are exceptionally speedy and do not cost much, has led us to take our liberties with it – sending short, brief messages in full knowledge that it would be socially acceptable and not at all taxing on the wallet to send more should the message be incomplete or need to be supplemented. Heavily-worded letters are no longer required; a brief and succinct description would suffice. Technology has indeed been the catalyst for such a phenomenon and the efficiency that this medium has brought has made us better and faster communicators in this respect.

However, it can be argued that the technologically-induced brevity has taken a toll on our social lives, making us less effective communicators with regard to interpersonal relationships and interactions. Undoubtedly, the invention of computers, the Internet, and the rise of new media can be held responsible for this. Take for instance, social networking giant Twitter. Twitter prides itself largely on brevity in its characteristic 140-character status updates it limits its users to. Of course, as the great Shakespeare once quipped, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. This is undoubtedly what Twitter tries to promote and has had its impact on the rising community of satirical Twitterers who have compacted jokes and snarky comments on society within a single status update. The conciseness in this is undeniable. However, this does not translate well in the real social world we live in as the constant expectation and the primal need for communication lie more in the details rather than brevity. Even as the presence of such websites demanding brevity gets increasingly palpable in our lives, the expectations of the people we interact on a daily basis goes far beyond that of short, intermittent messages or witty one-liners and extend more deeply into detailed conversations. The technology which requires and has made us accustomed to succinct communication may have rendered us slightly inept at the reality of social communication and made us less effective communicators.

Of course, the slight deterioration of social interaction brought about by technology has not rendered us entirely unable to communicate effectively. In fact, it has instead made effective communication easier in the spread and conveying of ideas. Technology and its various means of communication have, as established, increased the speed and efficiency at which ideas are conveyed. It has served as a medium for people to share their thoughts and ideas with a large mass of people. An example in recent history is the Arab Spring, where hundreds of protestors in countries like Libya and Egypt harnessed the efficiency of communication through the Internet and communicated their ideas effectively by organizing protests and movements on the social networking site Facebook. The people with this common goal were united through the connecting force of the Internet, which was a technological invention that helped them convey their thoughts and ideas effectively to a large number of people. Hence, technology does expedite the process of communication, translating to better communication through the conveying of ideas to a large audience almost instantaneously.

Technology in its various mediums of communication, has indeed provided us with opportunities to improve the quality of human interaction and relations. However, the effectiveness and efficiency of communication through technology hinges largely on how it is utilized and how the individual chooses to react to it. Technology will only be an advancement to this vital form of interaction if its power is used and harnessed appropriately.

Here is an interesting video which depicts technology acting as a disruption to our traditional methods of communication:

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