Can We Please Stop with the Technology Shaming/Scolding?


What is this guy looking at, the world?

Okay, we’ve probably all seen it by now, the latest viral video making the rounds telling us how we are missing our lives, becoming hermits, incapable of “real” relationships and becoming less socially adept because of smart phones, Facebook and twitter. If you have yet to see the latest one (in a long line of them), you can watch it here. My favorite part about these memes and videos is the sheer irony of them being made specifically for people to post and share…ON SOCIAL MEDIA. WITH THEIR SMARTPHONES!

But first, a disclaimer: This post is not a rebuttal of Mr. Turk’s video. Nor is my intent to say we do not need to put down our technology and spend time with people face to face. It is important NOT to prioritize online activity over your partner, children, friends or other relationships. This post is  however a plea for us to stop picking at the speck in our neighbor’s eye while we have a plank in our own; for us to keep the baby and pitch the bath water; to eat the fish and discard the bones. As with so many things in life it all comes down to how you relate to something more than the thing itself.

Throughout human history people have loved scolding each other and themselves about the use of the latest technology.  Consider the following about the automobile:

The regime of mass car use is an offshoot of our historical aversion to civility itself. The car allows Americans to persist in the delusion that civic life is unnecessary. As a practical matter, this regime is putting us out of business as a civilization.  -James Howard Kunstler

“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles…With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization — that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls… I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can’t have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones…I shouldn’t be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles ‘had no business to be invented.’”  -Booth Tarkington

Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it…It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation.  -R.A. Lafferty

Cars, air travel, the telephone, the newspaper, the radio, electric lighting: They all were said to be the end of civilization as we know it. And you know what? They were. Everything ever invented and everyone ever born changes the world as we know it. Change is continually happening and continually feared. All these inventions plus computers, iPads, smartphones, televisions, texting and social media have the potential to be used for positive or negative ends. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE. What is important is how we relate to these things individually and collectively. Listen, our phones are no different when it comes to the commuters in the picture at the top of this post than newspapers were to an earlier generation. Look at this picture…BOOM. Historied.


What is this women looking at, the world?

We humans enjoy beating ourselves up for things. It makes us feel better somehow to practice self-flagellation (extreme punishment or criticism of oneself) even when we have done nothing wrong. We watch a video or read a meme about how [fill in the blank] is ruining society and we think, yeah that’s bad often without actually examining ourselves or the facts. My friend Michelle A. posted a great reaction to the Gary Turk video a couple days ago in which she said,

Facebook has changed my life for the better. I have used it to encourage others, stay in touch with people I would have otherwise lost, tell funny stories and share pictures with family and friends. I have prayed with people over the phone I have met up with people I hadn’t seen in 15 years and we don’t miss a beat because we know each other’s Facebooks. I have logged my sons special moments I have had spirited debates and long phone calls and loved the downtrodden. It is growing my business so I can change my family tree. I put down the phone and my kids play outside, play with play dough, take walks, see friends and have fun. It’s not the app that’s the problem. It’s user error. To those with a dramatic goodbye letter to Facebook I shrug my shoulders.

Another friend, Matt eloquently pointed out (also on Facebook btw),

With all due respect to Gary Turk and his “Look Up” video, the reality may not be as simple as he puts it. Take, for instance, these Pew Survey results: “The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.”

Let’s have a look-see at those Pew Survey results, shall we?

Controlling for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.

We looked at how much total support, emotional support, companionship, and instrumental aid adults receive. On a scale of 100, the average American scored 75/100 on a scale of total support, 75/100 on emotional support (such as receiving advice), 76/100 in companionship (such as having people to spend time with), and 75/100 in instrumental aid (such as having someone to help if they are sick in bed).

Internet users in general score 3 points higher in total support, 6 points higher in companionship, and 4 points higher in instrumental support. A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional 5 points higher in total support, 5 points higher in emotional support, and 5 points higher in companionship, than internet users of similar demographic characteristics. For Facebook users, the additional boost is equivalent to about half the total support that the average American receives as a result of being married or cohabitating with a partner.

In addition to all that Facebook users have revived more dormant relationships. As is often the case, there is so much more to things than meets the eye. So perhaps we should do ourselves and our friends a favor the next time we feel the need to pass along a “convicting”, tisk-tisk, fear-mongering or guilt inducing meme/video and examine our motives. Evaluate our relationships to the people in our lives. Ask for their input. Make adjustments if necessary. But perhaps we should not assume that everyone has a problem just because we do. Maybe we shouldn’t pass something on just because it makes us seem more evolved (Sometimes that backfires and just makes one look like one of those people who dislikes something because it is popular. Not unlike the Michael Jackson backlash after Thriller when I was in junior high or the way some of the hipsters of today reject something popular just to seem cooler than thou). Or maybe we should cut each other a little slack. Stop hating on each other. Stop shaming each other (or our kids) every time we look at our phones. Instead what if we could teach our kids how to have a healthy relationship to their tech by modeling a healthy relationship to our tech. And lastly I hope we can all agree to stop saying, “Those aren’t ‘real’ relationships.” Because, they are. Social media are certainly not the only way nor should they be the only way we connect to, relate or are there for each other. They are also not always the best way (although when I needed a bed for a teenager who was staying with us for six months I had offers for about 10 within 30 minutes of putting it online). In the end however, social networks, smart phones and iPads are a valid and often effective way to meet, connect, reconnect, reach out, ask for help and/or offer help. Let’s make sure we are using them for good rather than abandoning them or demonizing them out of fear.


Below you will find some excellent articles on the positive effects social media are having on teens specifically.

And yes, I wrote about something similar a while back…

10 thoughts on “Can We Please Stop with the Technology Shaming/Scolding?

  1. robw77 says:

    Bravo!!! This article needed to be “said” for a long time. I was on my smartphone yesterday taking care of my son’s music lesson and managing what would be his day, and some stranger remarked to my friend I was standing with how “see, even your friend is addicted to to games”. I don’t have games on my phone, nor was I do anything entertaining. Without that message, my son would not have picked up a real life guitar and played it that afternoon.

  2. I feel there has been a big misunderstanding of what the message “lookup” was providing. I took the message as “stop using online as a showing off ground” and “be in the moment” every so often, especially If you feel the way he feels on the video. I don’t recall the video to claim everyone suffers from this issue nor do I recall it saying we should stop using technology full-stop.

    Could it be the post was mostly aimed at the youth? The ones who are the first to truly grow-up alongside social media. The reasoning for using the media to share the message would be so the media hungry kids can get the message that might or might not make them think. I don’t think the video was saying technology was bad at all or that it is something we need to stop all together.

    It’s all exciting and interesting stuff.

  3. selkie305 says:

    “All these inventions plus computers, iPads, smartphones, televisions, texting and social media have the potential to be used for positive or negative ends. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE.” Social media have been used to bully people to death. They have also been used (probably many more times) to save lives. They bring the world into our immediate circle of friends in a way never before seen. A war, disaster or other crisis in a distant city or country is Facebooked or tweeted instantly, by real, everyday people like us. We don’t have to wait for the mainstream media (or radical wingnut media) to process it for us, or for governing forces to put a spin on it or censor it. And such posts can occasionally make it possible to quickly get help to where it is needed.
    Computers and social media are also a lifeline for many people who are socially isolated. They may be people who, for many reasons, have difficulty finding friends in “the real world” (the world where others judge you by your appearance, your voice, your mannerisms). They may be confined to their homes by age or disability, or live in a remote rural area.
    It might be hard for someone who has always been outgoing, who has always had the support of nearby friends and family, to appreciate all the benefits that technology and its applications have brought to others who don’t have those advantages. Try to imagine.

  4. mel says:

    It was quite recently that eating dinner in front of the tv instead of recounting the day with family was the worst thing you could do.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The only reason I started using social networking is because in school, my friends started to rely on it, one by one, until everyone was on it, instead of hanging out with me. I went where they were, because they were no longer available. They just wanted to connect online, instead of in person. I started using it only out of pressure, and the only reason I use it now is because that’s where all my old friends spend their social time. It’s a shadow of what our relationships used to be. Now I’m supposed to rationalize to myself that this state of affairs is my own fault for not using tech the right way or “having a speck in my eye”? You want everyone to avoid pointing out the problem just because we’ve been forced to become part of the problem? How does that solve anything?

    Now everyone’s just on their phones all the time, looking for the next better interaction to come along instead of being content to just spend time with me too. Maybe it temporarily feels better to pretend how great that is. But you know what, it hurts to find out people are no longer so interested in actually spending time with you. You can tell yourself whatever you want, but don’t tell me I ought to lie to myself or anyone else about how we’re all supposedly so much happier and better off this way. That’s an invention of necessity, not the truth.

    If you want to shift the goal and say, “well, now we don’t have a choice about using tech to stay in touch, so maybe we should just come to terms with it,” fine. But let’s not lie and pretend it’s actually been so wonderful all along.

  6. Samantha says:

    Actually, much of what the naysayers had to say about the automobile is true. We do need to constantly scrutinize the impact technology has on society and our ability to collaborate and problem solve. It’s not a black and white issue, but this post and the post the author comments on try hard to paint it that way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s