Distracted by technology…reason 3 for incivility today
Rather than improve our work lives, technology has stripped us of support services, dehumanized the workplace, and plugged us in around the clock. Giovinella Gonthier, ‘Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace’
It is hard to escape the cell phones, the computers, the iPods. Often it means less direct human contact and certainly some people use technology to write what they would never say in person. At times bosses demand we are always accessible. Stress. And more stress comes because there’s always something new to learn about these devices.
We can’t lay all blame on the workplace.
We have an infinite appetite for distractions, says Michael Bugeja, Director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.
Bugeja talked at the Iowa State presidential university lecture April 4. He defined consumer technology as that which entertains, distracts and makes someone a profit. It includes cell phones, computers, televisions and all the accouterments such as Web sites, games, podcasts, text messaging, instant messaging, ring tones, e-mail. “It is omnipresent and distracting”, said Bugeja.
Searching for community, again
His topic was the search for community in a technological age. Community—we were searching for that in reason 2 for incivility. (Many of the reasons for incivility are intertwined.) Technology was supposed to connect us but often ends up passive and inactive. Rather than being interactive, it often creates a social void.
Bugeja says technology has replaced relationships and thinking. This age of distraction undermines critical thinking which creates new knowledge. Without critical thinking, we have trendy knowledge. Technology homogenizes culture. We are on cell phones around the world. Farmers have cell phones in their tractor cabs. Facebook says it is a community. It is not a true community.
Consumer technology to a large degree is used for entertainment when that may not have been the intent of the device. Take news. What is news today? Is the entertainment stuff passed off as news more important than real journalism which seeks to inform the public so people can make their own decisions and conclusions?
Bugeja talks about ‘interpersonal intelligence’—knowing when, where and for what purpose technology is appropriate. He says IF you understand when to use e-mail, when to use the phone, when to have a meeting in person—you will be successful. In other words, how savvy a communicator are you? Do you understand what effective communication is in today’s world? Control the technology and you will be empowered.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
- George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic, playwright and political activist (1856-1950)
P.S. It is very important to understand when to use e-mail, when to use the phone and when to meet in person. Important enough that I’ll work on that as a separate post. In the workshops I’ve led, that’s always a source of irritation and of confusion.