Does the ease and speed of modern technology decrease mindfulness? That is, does it inhibit us from communicating meaningfully and thoughtfully?
Back in the day, when we had to write letters to friends who lived far away, or make infrequent long-distance phone calls to family in other countries, we likely put more thought and care into how (and what) we communicated. Now, we’re instantly connected to everyone, is our communication less mindful? (And does it matter?)
A few years ago, I had a conversation with Anuja about this exact thing. She and I met in college, but she has lived in a million different (far away from me) places since then. Fortunately, no matter what state or country she was in, we’ve been able to stay in touch through whatsapp, video chat, and email.
Plus, modern technologies let me “see” my grandparents, who live in India (and have them see their great-grandson!) whenever we want. And while I’d love to see them in person whenever I want, this is the next best thing. I love that it’s possible to stay connected to your friends and family no matter where they are.
The downside to communicating through technology
But because we can communicate so easily through these modes of instant communication, we put less thought and care into what we say. (And maybe we even value what we say less?).
Maybe this is a good thing:
Being able to stay connected like that makes communicating casual, easy, the way friendships/relationships are when you’re not separated by space.
Maybe the communication (and even the relationships themselves?) also become more easily taken for granted. Plus, friendships and other relationships thrive when they’re given careful attention.
(And, what if being able to communicate in that easy and instantaneous way makes us more likely to skip out on making plans to see our people in real life?)
Anuja‘s Dad, Sudhir Oak, actually wrote an article about this, for the annual magazine of a Marathi community newsletter. His article touched on how while it’s great that these technologies exist, they have decreased the quality of our communication with our loved ones. Since the original article was in Marathi, and I don’t read/speak Marathi, I called him to tell me about the article. Here’s the gist of it, as explained by Sudhir Uncle:
The theme that year was memories, so I took an actual situation where I was travelling in a car, and the CD had a song, “Tera khat leke sanam,” ([a song about] “when I get your letter, my sweetheart”) that triggered a memory…
There were no phone calls when I lived in India;so letter-writing was the only way to keep in touch. (Telephones were very expensive, and interstate calls were very expensive.) So, [I wrote about] how letter writing became something close to my heart… about how it transformed me, and kind of became a part of me.
With all the modes of communication — instant communication — that somehow, as the broadband has widened, the depth of communication, and the feel, the feelings seem have become more and more shallow.
Somebody posts something on Facebook, and 100 people [respond], saying the same thing — there’s no depth. And there are no words with more articulation — regardless of what language you speak, the depth of the communication is not there anymore. We’re not communicating feelings.
But, I ended [the article] with a positive outlook… every once in a while, I’ll get an email from someone that feels almost like an e-letter, and someone will say some things. And I’ll start thinking, well you know, as long as communication is done…Sudhir Oak
Mindfulness in how we use technology
Like Sudhir Uncle’s article, I want to end this on a positive note.
While I do think modern technologies do have the potential to reduce the quality of our interactions and relationships with people, I think we can integrate mindfulness in how we use technology.
Technology and mindfulness do not have to be mutually exclusive.
We can use those modern technologies to communicate with depth. We may not do it as frequently as we shoot off “k” or “thx bye” texts, but when we make a concentrated effort to communicate our feelings and thoughts, we can have meaningful discussions with the people we care about, even through texts or emails.
And when we’re finding we’re falling into a habit of having meaningless exchanges with people we care about, we can always pick up the phone and call.
…or even write a letter.
(Featured art is “The Letter” by Anna Paik).