I am sick and tired of these stupid videos going viral on facebook about how technology has made us antisocial and that social media is evil.
Let me tell you a story. I’m half English, but live in Spain. I get to see my English family, at best, once a year. Sometimes not even that.
I love my English grandparents, but we don’t have many things in common. We can get a nice 20 minute talk going about what we’ve been doing lately, and then I usually fall silent whilst my mum talks about cooking with my grandma and my dad goes on to talk about science with my granddad. It’s so disappointing, because I barely see them, and I can only rely on their interest in what I’m doing with my life to start a conversation.
A few months ago we flew to England and stayed with them a few days. Whilst having supper, naturally (as always) the conversation started with how I was doing, and what I was planning to do with my future now that I had graduated. I told them I was thinking about moving back to Japan to start working there. Somehow, one way or another, we started talking about life in Japan, and my parents chipped in by commenting on their experience in Tokyo as tourists. “There’s so many people!” And then someone asked, “what’s the population of Japan?”
And I said, “Let me google that.”
So I pulled out my smartphone. 127.3 million. Can you believe it? That’s a lot! That’s twice as much as the UK, isn’t it? What is the population of the UK? Granddad says 60 million, but grandma says 62.
Google says 64.1 million.
What about Spain? 50 million, perhaps? 55? Mum says 48, dad says 40. Nope, it’s 46.77 million as of 2014, says google.
We all guessed at the population of the US, of Canda, of France, of Germany; we cheered when one of us had almost hit the mark, and gasped at unexpected numbers. We looked up the dates of historical events, we read random wikipedia facts, we searched Stonehenge on google maps and read about the theories behind it, we googled ‘disc symbols ancient’ to try and figure out what this paperweight my granddad had in his office was supposed to be because he couldn’t remember its name and immediately found out it was a replica of the Phaistos Disc. “‘Disc symbols ancient’! How did google know what we were looking for just from that? That’s amazing!”
We went on for hours, and it was so. much. fun. For three whole hours, three. whole. fucking. hours, every topic we talked about was somehow linked to googling facts or images on my smartphone, and do you know what my granddad said to me as we started cleaning everything up?
He said this thing I had was amazing, and he wanted one too.
Technology is not a conversation stopper. It’s a conversation starter, and if you don’t know how to be responsible, if you don’t know how to make use of this amazing thing we have to keep a conversations going, then the problem isn’t smartphones, or facebook, or twitter. It’s you.