Is the Cloud killing human communication? More specifically, are social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram mixed with texting and video conferencing killing day-to-day, face-to-face human interactions?
Reaction, Not Reason
Before we get into this, we need to preface by stating: we love Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Pinterest. We love them because they serve as a megaphone for well placed content. Social media networks serve the business as an avenue for large scale PR and branded content distribution. This said, we have to admit, Cloud based social media applications provide us distraction over contemplation. Beyond any other social media network, Twitter provides us with the ability to react to news/comments in a near stream of conscious. For all of the benefits of Twitter, the micro blogging service has transformed our global culture into reactionary as opposed to contemplative.
As noted by Bill Keller, the former Executive Editor of The New York Times:
“But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.”
Our main issue with Twitter isn’t the social networks’ ability to provide the sound and fury. No, our main issue with Twitter is that the sound and fury which Twitter creates is taking us all away from doing the things which really matter – the things which make us all quintessentially human: introspection, contemplation, wisdom and knowledge.
Physical Communication Methods
Now, as some of you might notice, we aren’t talking about the method by which communication takes place – wording and language. While many people see the downfall of communication within the stunted words of Twitter and shorthand of texting, we disagree with this. Language has always changed. Crafted and morphed by events, writers and history, language has proven to be a living breathing mechanism, which, much like species, evolves over time. While we agree that “lol” or “gr8” is a shaping force of verbal/written culture, we also see it as a cognitive reaction to the constraints placed around human interaction. That is to say, the medium through which we communicate has changed. Why should the physical language – the prose – be any different?
The promise of the Internet was/is the ability to provide the world at your fingertips. You want information? Just Google it. This is the promise of the Internet. It’s a curse in disguise.
The Downside of Instant Information
Memory. The downside of the instant information age is memory. When is the last time you had to figure out where you were going without using a smartphone or Garmen GPS device? With Google at your fingertips, why would you need to remember anything? Don’t know something? Just Google it. Our reliance on instant information is akin to us outsourcing our collective knowledge to the Cloud. Why keep anything internally when you can store everything externally?
While this sounds swell, the issue at hand isn’t access, it’s context. As noted by Meg Wolitzer in The Uncoupling access has been granted to, “the generation that had information, but no context. Butter, but no bread. Craving, but no longing.” Put it more blunt: access has killed need. Everything is now available in our Cloud world. Everything but longing and need.
It also has to be mentioned, access doesn’t mean knowledge. Access opens information yet it veils introspection, wisdom, complexity, insight and cognitive thought. At Solar VPS, we worry by exporting our sum of knowledge to the Cloud, we have also exported our collective ability to conduct critical thinking. Match this with Twitter and communication has become reactionary and more stupid even as information is more accessible than ever. Without ever having to remember anything and dissect it, we are losing sight of that which makes us human.
Instant access gives way to a lack of understanding and empathy within communication. This leads us to Cloud based video chatting services like Skype and Go To Meeting.
Have you ever gotten a sad or remote feeling post Skype conversation with a loved one? While video chatting with a friend over Skype, have you ever felt more removed from that person even while viewing their smile? This feeling is common.
The largest disconnect with Cloud based communications tools like Skype can be found in their lack of empathy. There are no statistics about it. There is no hard evidence to support the feeling yet the feeling is what matters. Cloud communication tools have the power to connect us to one another faster than ever. All the same, they lack the very thing which fosters human interaction and communication – warmth and feeling.
When mixed, social media communication, instant information and Cloud communication tools empower us while also tearing at the basic fibers of human interaction. We live in a world where expressing our thoughts to the globe is easier than ever but truly connecting with someone is harder than ever. The Cloud communication tools are there, but they aren’t getting the job done.