There’s been a lot of talk recently about the ways that technology is changing our brains, changing our bodies, our societies. And for anyone who’s tried to engage with someone whose nose is buried in a smartphone, we know that technology is definitely changing the way we humans interact—and not always for the better. Take just one example: cyber-bullying has escalated an already disturbing phenomenon and, many say, has enabled and assisted bullies by creating a false sense of anonymity, a stronger sense of invincibility, and an unhealthy distance between people, such that a young person who would never bully someone in person feels free and even encouraged to do so online.
The physical distance, the ability to remain anonymous, and the ease with which one can fire off an email, text, or social media post – all of these are ways technology can bring out the worst in us. Especially in our culture, which encourages instant gratification and breeds impulsivity, we need to be careful about the habits we cultivate in ourselves and allow in our young people. It’s a good idea to think more carefully about the words, language, and tone we use when emailing versus texting versus speaking in person. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that, almost always, a phone call or face-to-face conversation is the best way to communicate. These sorts of encounters can often make us be kinder, more careful, more polite—and prevent misunderstanding. When speaking face to face, we can read body language, tone of voice, facial expression. Even putting our phones down or turning away from our computer screens can be helpful when we are speaking with someone who is in the same room.
Simply taking a moment to reflect on the ways different technology avenues affect the way we communicate can help us – and our children – make better choices.