Error Not Found

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair’s All-School Meeting presentation last Wednesday, in which she addressed the role of technology in human interactions, was both informative and slightly disappointing. While she was certainly correct in urging students to remember the importance of self-awareness, discretion and time management in our online endeavors, I take issue with Dr. Steiner-Adair’s implication that we should blame technology for the problems that have arisen in our society alongside the increased role of social media in our lives. Despite what Dr. Steiner-Adair described, our interactions over social media are still fundamentally human, and our psychological dependencies remain the basis of our relationships. How we take advantage of and use technology as a mask is what sometimes poses a problem in modern culture, and although moderation and restraint in our online activities should certainly be promoted, we should ultimately address our own behaviors instead of blaming social media for our shortcomings. In her speech, Dr. Steiner-Adair said, “When we communicate over text instead of talking, we are losing one of the most essential human forms of connecting. Relationships are about listening to each other’s tone of voice, conveying the nuance through these feelings and connecting through these feelings. [These feelings] become flat, lost and one-dimensional when we text.” Steiner-Adair went on to give an example of how a simple “sorry” could be misinterpreted in various ways over text. What Dr. Steiner-Adair failed to address, however, is that humans can mask emotions and agendas even better than texts can. How many of us have faked an apology to someone because an authority figure made us apologize? How many of us have used sarcasm to defend our pride when we really should have sounded sincere? When we send an abrupt or vaguely worded text, we rarely lose any form of connection that would otherwise take place otherwise in the conversation. We choose to blame social media for any ambiguity of intention, yet the ambiguity is, in reality, man-made. Dr. Steiner-Adair later cited a speculative addiction to technology as a primary cause of disturbance in the relationships and connections we have with one another. While it is true that technology should not replace friends in value or importance, it does not necessarily “get in the way of healthier psychological dependencies on one another” either. When we reach out to friends for support, it should not matter whether we connect with them in person or through social media, as long as we receive the help we need. In this same vein, the example that Steiner-Adair gave in a Q&A of utilizing alarms on phones instead of roommates to wake up in the mornings was not an indication of technology corroding human relationships, but rather a demonstration of technology’s capacity to be practical and effective without compromising any important psychological dependencies. Using our phones allows us to get up on time without disturbing our roommates, who probably would not consider it an improvement to the relationship if they they had to drag us out of bed every morning. Of course, social media should never replace human interaction entirely. It is not a substitute for going out and doing activities with friends. Nevertheless, it is an excellent means of remaining connected despite distance and time. We cannot speak and spend time with every person every day, so social media allows us to stay updated and involved. Especially at an insulated boarding school like Andover, the variety of social media sites and applications available allow us to connect with people we otherwise might not be able to communicate with at all. Dr. Steiner-Adair is justified in suggesting that we should be more mindful of spending too much time on social media and of other people’s feelings. We do need to emphasize the importance of “time management and self-regulation and understanding why [we] are using social media,” but these principles should be implemented as to avoid spending too much time on technology and protect both the safety and emotional well-being of others. They should not have to be carried out under the pretense that technology takes away from personal interactions or is detrimental to “healthier psychological dependencies,” because this statement is misleading and incomplete. Technology on its own does not cause any issues; problems only arise when people misuse its power.