Bennis Inc. | Technology: Bridging the Gap or Building the Wall?
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Technology: Bridging the Gap or Building the Wall?

Technology: Bridging the Gap or Building the Wall?

My day begins with technology. The first sound I awake to in the morning is the ringing of my phone alarm which I immediately grab—but not just to shut it off. Instead, I proceed to check the weather and then my email all while still lying in bed. If I head for a run, I use the RunKeeper app on my phone to map my miles and track my pace along with my iPod to ensure there’s not a moment of silence or serenity from the time my feet hit the ground.

Before 8am I feel so connected to the world, but yet I haven’t had one single face-to-face interaction.

Let’s rewind this scenario and this time take away technology. I might wake up and have a cup of coffee with my boyfriend instead of checking my email. Without a phone or an iPod to keep me busy, I might choose to walk with a friend and catch up on each other’s life. Without the technological noise, I’m now available to engage a neighbor in a morning hello and actually get to know the special people who live right around me.

So what role does technology play in our lives? It’s certainly the Great Connector, but just like any other tool—it’s all about how you use it. I can use smart phones and social media to stay connected with people all over the world; for this reason, technology bridges the gap. But the moment I refuse to “disconnect” long enough to interact with the world right around me, technology instead begins to build a wall—a fortress, really.

At one point or another, we have all found ourselves in at least one of these scenarios: G-Chatting with a friend sitting two computers away. Sitting at a restaurant where everyone at the table is looking at their phone, texting. Thinking the person in the bathroom stall next to you is engaging you in conversation, when really they’re on their phone. Breaking up via phone call, email—maybe even by simply ending the relationship on Facebook. Asking someone for directions only to realize they have an iPod in and didn’t hear a word you said.

These are such trivial examples, but they’re signs that bigger problems are on the horizon. When did we become a society more comfortable Skyping with someone continents and oceans away, but too uncomfortable to talk to the person bagging our groceries?

Technology is one of the greatest tools we will ever possess, but it’s up to us to use it to build bridges not walls.

Stephanie Shirley