Technology is extremely beneficial to today’s society, but it also severely inhibits individuals’ ability to communicate face-to-face with other people. Technology, specifically smartphones, often takes the place of face-to-face communication – an epidemic that can be seen walking into any public area. Instead of making connections with people face-to-face, many turn to their smartphones in order to make instant and geographically more far-reaching relationships. There is no doubt that the instant access to people from all over the world benefits business, the workplace, and even personal relationships, but those same people are missing opportunities to create valuable relationships in their real, everyday life. This ability to make connections across the globe has created a smaller world, but a more disconnected community.
Moving beyond the act of ignoring the opportunity to form relationships face-to-face in lieu of connections made using technology, smartphones have actually decreased the quality of face-to-face interactions. It seems that face-to-face conversations come second to or are interrupted by smartphones. How many times have you witnessed two or more people sitting around a table for dinner and all participants are lost in their smartphones? When these individuals do communicate face-to-face, these conversations often come as second-best to their smartphone conversations. If a device vibrates, rings, or otherwise alerts a member of this dinner party, their attention is immediately diverted. Even if the person does not immediately check their device, the simple act of the smartphone’s alert is enough to divide this person’s attention causing the quality of the face-to-face conversation to greatly decrease.
I see an increase in human dependence on technology in the future. I do not believe we have reached the peak of technology usage in our daily lives. Unfortunately, this dependence comes at a cost: the quality and quantity of our face-to-face relationships. Tricia Hussung at Concordia University Saint Paul states, “Because users may lean on smartphones and other technology to avoid feelings of discomfort, anguish or stress, they exhibit extreme or irrational reactions when Internet use is restricted in airports, schools, hospitals and workplaces.” How are we supposed to build real face-to-face relationships with those around us when we are stressed and anxious about being disconnected from our smartphones? Smartphones have contributed to the drastic increase in anxiety and depression that spans multiple generations. The increased human dependence on smartphones will continue to increase anxiety, depression, and stress which, in turn, will decrease the ability and opportunity for individuals to create and maintain face-to-face relationships.