02 August 2010

Do We Still Have Friends?

One of the most obvious benefits of technology is perhaps that it draws us closer to each other. Though we discover ways to connect with our friends no matter how far apart we are, it seems deep friendship, as Aristotle suggests, does not come easily. We may have more friends than we used to, but paradoxically, our relationships with each other have grown increasingly shallow. How many of our text messages involve with the promotion of intimacy? How many of our tweets seek to cultivate our friendship?

Perhaps, it is true, many of our text messages and tweets force us to pay attention to the minutest details such as our breakfasts and dinners. Though our grand enquiries about what we eat for breakfast at one level allow us to acquire the necessary knowledge of what a proper breakfast should be like, at another level they hint at our lack of emotional intimacy that suggests the modern society is suffering from the epidemic of superficial talks.

Imagine the following conversation on MSN between me and my mother:

"Hey mom!"
"Hi Will"
"Just to tell you, B is becoming a MT"
"What is that?"
"Well, MT means management trainee."
"Oh see, good for him."
"Anyway, gtg. ttyl."
"I know gtg means got to go. What do you mean ttyl?"
"Oh, ttyl means talk to you later."
"Really?! I didn't even know that!"
"So got to go. Talk to you later!"

Thanks to iPhones and Blackberries for making us text and chat easily.

The original intention of inventing technology was perhaps to bring convenience to the general public. If the above conversation suggests the contrary, it is perhaps because technology conspires to give birth to confusing short phrases. Technology leads us to suspect the virtue of patience, rather than confining us to the tradition of writing accurately, it undermines the importance of spelling and generates a perhaps rather innovative style of writing. Though technology, which is the origin of the "culture" of haste, is essential to our economic reward, it has risked inspiring a paradox- that we write more by writing less. In this technological civilisation, a message that is supposed to take a much shorter time to deliver ends up taking twice as long now.

Moreover, technology also urges us to cast aside patience and favour a trust in distractions. It is no longer uncommon for us to chat with our friend while watching YouTube at the same time. The screens on our mobile phones only make allowance for cliché questions such as "How was your weekend?" or "How was your dinner" rather than what really matters in life, thus fooling us into thinking that we have already cultivated our friendship. What the world needs is technology absenteeism- that a lack of electronic devices and the internet might actually draw us intimately closer to each other.

Dropping our devices might be the best idea, but no one can survive without either mobile phones or the internet in the modern society. What seems to pull us together might actually prove detrimental to friendship. In our busy days filled with futile bustle, we need breaks that that allow us to articulate what lays buried in our hearts. We need to open up our minds and accept the diversity of human minds, that a Google search engine won't fulfil our desire for a true human interaction. Because we are not just CPU's that just process data.

If technology makes us less human, what should we do? Rather than texting messages and tweeting, we should call up our friends. We need to make our words count. After all, it does not take much time to greet our friends face to face.


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