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Does Technology Connect Us or Separate Us?

October 6, 2010
Google Maps on Apple iPhone
Image by niallkennedy via Flickr

How did people survive Manhattan without an iPhone?  Or any type of smart-phone.  When I leave the apartment, my ritual includes:  

Briefcase?  Check.  Metro card and wallet?  Check.    

iPhone? Must Have.     

This “magical gadget” to everything Manhattan is a staple to many individuals’ daily routines.  For example, on a Sunday morning, I exit my building with no idea how I’m getting to brunch.  Standing on the sidewalk, I pullout the “magic machine,” type the address into Google maps, hit the public transportation button and voilà, three different routes.  Now, the tricky part is locating the correct metro entrance and getting on the correct train.  On a few of occasions, I’ve hopped on the uptown instead of the downtown, the local instead of the express and even once the incorrect seven-train, which shuttled me over to Queens.    

But, there is no need to follow in my footsteps.  iPhone (smart-phone) users can download numerous NYC subway and transportation applications.  Some iPhone apps go beyond the subway map, like iTrans, which includes train time tables and service advisory updates.  By inserting your subway line, current stop and destination, Snooze Lite alerts you of your upcoming stop.  And my favorite is Exit Strategy, known for its unmatched application, which tells you where to stand on the platform or which car to enter so you end up in front of your destination exit.  Not to mention it includes walking directions to the subway entrances – all signs of a true New Yorker.   

With the click of a mouse, push of a button or tap of a finger, people depend on technology to support and guide them through their day.  In some ways, iPhones could be coined a user’s best friend.  This phenomenon raises the question:   

Does technology connect us or separate us?    

Yes, we live on an island, but has technology transformed us into islands unto ourselves?   

Manhattan is brimming with close to 1.6 million people in 22.7 square miles, that’s 66,940 people per square mile, which makes social interaction difficult to ignore.  And yet, on an average weekly commute, how many times do you connect with a real human being?    

Now, during the same time, how many times do you connect over the phone?    

It’s safe to say every day or almost every day.    

It reminds me of the commercial featuring two cellphone users chatting on the phone, in the same the room, next to one another.  We laugh now – but who knows?   

So, is this a good thing or bad thing?  Can it even be categorized as good or bad?   

It’s definitely convenient.  I’m the first person to admit that I google directions instead of asking the 10 people to my left for help.  I text instead of making the two-minute phone call.  But, the question is not meant to assess the fundamental usage, rather the suggested message, which encourages people to use technology as the primary means for personal connection and interaction, instead of as the complement to connecting and staying connected.      

Hopefully, some food for thought.  The topic sprung up from casual conversation regarding the difference between traveling in the city now versus 10 years ago – concluding that you don’t need to talk to anyone, but then, what’s the fun in that?   

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 5:03 pm

    Good points Katie. I think cell phones have gone way to far. They are starting to hurt our culture and ability to interact. I wrote on the topic myself if you care to read:

    Nice site… Will read more. I don’t have nearly as many posts as you do, but maybe someday I will.


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