Is Technology Dumbing Down Your Relationships?

Technology’s purpose is to make our lives smarter with giving us the ability to do just about anything we need to – whether it be gathering information, communicating with others or making purchases – with quickness and ease. With smartphones we have the ability to do all of this on the go as well, a major plus with the generally hectic lifestyle of most Americans today. The idea behind technology is to work smarter, not harder. Meaning you’re getting way more resources without having to do more work. Take for example, price comparison. Years ago when people wanted to find the best deal on a purchase they would have to drive (or walk) from place to place to compare prices. Today, simply drumming your fingers on your computer keyboard or cell phone to type a few words generates an instant search for you, so in a matter of minutes you know exactly how much your item costs at all different stores you searched for.

The convenience factor of modern technology is amazing. But in the process of making everything so easily accessible for us, was our intelligence lost along the way? Let’s explore two cases.

Case One: Predictive Text
When you’re sending a text message to someone using your smartphone, if you have predictive text enabled it will try to predict which word you are trying to type out and may generate that word for you automatically. For example, let’s say you’re trying to text a message to the tune of “I need to gauge the situation first.” You may have started to slightly misspell the word “gauge,” and your trusty smartphone automatically changes the word to “gargoyle,” predicting that is what you wanted to say. You’re in a hurry, as many of us are while texting, so you send it without checking the mistake. Happens all the time. When your friend receives the message they will obviously be confused, wondering why you are talking about a gargoyle.

While this makes for many entertaining text conversations, let’s delve a little further into the psychology of the situation. Predictive text is meant to make our lives smarter and easier, in that it’s supposed to “know” what you’re going to say and generate the word for you so you can finish your text message more quickly. But when its prediction is wrong, and you don’t catch it, two things can happen. Either your recipient will misconstrue your message (which in some cases could really work against you,) or they will think you are just a silly dumb-dumb for sending such a ridiculous text. Neither does much for your social credibility.

Case Two: Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites have become the norm and standard for keeping in touch online with people we know in “real” life. Granted there are many benefits to using such sites, such as keeping in contact with cherished friends or successfully networking with valuable, likeminded individuals. However, problems can arise, especially when people are using social networks to base their opinions on others they don’t know very well, which is extremely common. Take your friend’s new girlfriend for example. You met her once and she seemed really nice, and afterward you add each other as friends on Facebook. You barely know her, so naturally to find out more about her you peruse her Facebook to learn the details of her personality and life. While Facebook can be a great tool to learn more about someone, remember that what you see on their page is only what they’ve allowed you to. In many cases, it is not a very accurate depiction of someone’s life or who she or he is as a person. Generally, it is wiser to form your opinion on someone based on your interactions with them, in person, over a significant period of time.

Simply put, believing someone is a certain way based solely on what you see on their Facebook is practically an insult to your own intelligence. As human beings we have the ability to get a sense of what someone is like by observing their actions, body language, and tone of voice. All of these critical cues are unseen and unheard when viewing the person through the shield of technology.

For example, on a person’s Facebook you may see tons of pictures of the person and read words they have written. But the words are devoid of their tone of voice, and the photos of their real feelings and actions during that particular point in time. How, then, can you infer so much about them and be certain you are accurate?

On the flip side of the coin, social networking sites can tell you more about a person than what they have been willing to reveal to you in person. So it can really work both ways depending on the circumstance. But in general, deriving your opinions of a person is grounded much more soundly in the observance of their everyday actions, not a Facebook status update.

Use technology to sustain relationships and communicate with people wisely. It can definitely be useful, but keep in mind it is never an equal replacement for talking to them in person, seated face-to-face.

Kristen Bright is the social media consultant for Instant Checkmate. Instant Checkmate is a personal criminal background check provider, and does not perform employment screening of any kind.