The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty of Electronic Communication

In our modern day and age, we live, thrive, and survive on electronic devices. As most adults of my generation or older, however, we know what life is like without electronic communication because we were raised in a time before they were commonplace. For some of us who fall under that category, there is the belief that we don’t need them because “back in my day, we got by just fine without them.”

But is that belief, or statement, true? Can we really get by just fine today without electronic communication?

No matter how supportive you are of electronic communication, you can admit that there are negative sides to it. For instance, personal family relationships can be strained. We all know about the family sitting at the dinner table in silence, the only sound being that of beeping or clicking phone screens or electronic devices. While I believe this can be harmful to personal and family relationships, I also believe that putting the blame on the devices themselves is counterproductive and naïve. Let’s put the blame back where it lies: with the people who don’t have enough discipline to put them down, or make their children put them down, during personal, critical moments. Set rules for yourself and your family.

We all know of the additional argument that electronic devices distract people, especially while driving, and cause harm. Someone walks into a pole while walking and texting. Someone crashes while driving and texting. We hear about this happening, so we know it’s an issue. But again, don’t blame the device. Blame the person.

One reason people see electronics as a problem is that people become dependent on them. Again, not the device’s fault. Let me shout it once more, for those in the back: IT IS NOT THE ELECTRONIC DEVICE’S FAULT.

Then there is the issue that people aren’t living in the here and now, because they’re always trapped in their devices. I have an opinion on this. My boyfriend and I went to Kauai, Hawaii last spring. It is breathtakingly gorgeous there, as you’d expect. One line of advice I got from someone before I went was to “unplug.” To be there, live in the moment, soak it up.

Well, for me, part of living it is documenting it. I have a horrible memory, especially since getting my chronic illnesses five years ago, and if we had not taken as many pictures as we did, there is no way I would have remembered every inch of that island we toured. We documented it, every last moment, so that we could go back later and relive it.

Another way electronic devices can be beneficial is the communication it allows us to have with people all across the world. Technology isn’t evil, contrary to the belief of some people I have known. Nor is social media. If it weren’t for social media, I never would have met other writers, I never would have met others with chronic illness, and I would never have landed my first publishing contract. I would have remained solitary. I would have continued thinking I was alone in this world, as a writer and a sufferer of chronic illness. My internet people—my support system—are the only way I made it through some very trying times a few years back.

Don’t ignore your family and friends in your immediate life. But it’s okay to spread your wings and meet other people from across the world—people like you, going through the same things as you.

On that note, I would also argue that social media and electronic communication is great for keeping in touch with those family and friends in your immediate life, too. For someone like me—an introvert who is deathly afraid of talking on the phone—social media and texting has been the best thing for keeping family relationships alive. Especially when you live states away from those people.

And speaking of being deathly afraid of the phone, I have to praise the convenience of texting. I mean it when I say afraid. My social anxiety is at maximum levels when having to speak on the phone with someone. Put me in front of a crowded room and make me give a lecture, but don’t make me talk on the phone (and that says a lot for me, given that I’d rather eat bees than give a lecture). I get shaky, I get palpitations. I sweat. I can’t focus. I’m telling you: texting was the best invention. So next time you decide to dog someone for preferring to text over call, or you think it’s too impersonal, remember that there are people with serious anxiety disorders that prevent them from calmly being able to tackle the same everyday things you can do.

By now you probably know what my conclusion is on this subject. I think it’s impossible to be in this world we live now days without relying on electronic devices. It’s the modern time we’re living in. I’m not saying I think everyone should give in and buy that tablet or iPhone. I’m just saying to stop griping about the people who do use them. If you want to be a part of this world we live in, and you want to succeed, electronic devices are necessary.

Be responsible, of course. That goes without saying. You have control over how often you use the device, when you use it, and how dependent you become on it. Enjoy what technology has given us. Connect with people. But be smart.