In the 1990s, most of us never imagined a world where we’d carry a phone, GPS, video camera, music player and texting tool all in one pocket-sized device. News and information were available only through broadcast or ink, and our interactions took place in a world where we were disconnected from almost every other human being on the planet.
Today, we are digitally connected to people and cultures all over the earth, and we’re steeped in so much information that we struggle to tune it out. No wonder our attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish.
Undeniably, technology is changing our psychology. Many of the changes are positive, and many are harmful. But here’s the good news: I believe that those of us who are aware of technology’s negative effects will be able to counteract them and experience numerous advantages — both in business and in life.
Here are some ways technology is changing us, and what you can do to ensure you’re always using it for the betterment of your life.
Technology Has Changed How We Interact With The World Around Us
Remember those days when we had to wait in line at the bank to deposit a check? Or go to a big box store to learn about a product? Or visit a pharmacist to ask if it’s okay to take a pain reliever along with allergy meds? Those inconveniences are ancient history. Today we can research our aches and pains before calling a doctor, order a pizza simply by sending an emoji, and even send a text for an ambulance.
Although our conveniences have saved us valuable time and enabled us to stay connected to each other, they’ve also led to an alarming phenomenon: We have separated our behavior from our psychology. Many of us are overly trusting. We over-share on Facebook, and let total strangers into our homes to look at furniture we post on Craigslist. Our dating lives amount to writing half-true profiles about ourselves, scrolling through a sea of countless strangers, and meeting up after an hour of messaging.
Business interactions are also being shaped by technology. When we want to network with other like-minded business professionals, filling out our LinkedIn profile is now more important than polishing our resume.
One of my clients, Adam Fridman, who owns a digital marketing company called Mabbly, explains it well: “By bringing us closer together, technology has also removed what is essential to a meaningful connection, human interaction. Emailing, texting and messaging can’t replicate depth of engagement of emotion. Unfortunately, volume has replaced quality.”
Technology Has Changed Our Perceptions Of Reality
In many ways, our perceptions of the world around us have changed for the better, thanks to technology. Our exposure to countless points of view and foreign cultures helps us be more open and worldly than ever before.
But technology has also negatively changed how we perceive reality. One example is the way we select the news, information and trends we learn about. We often limit our information to the same sources that our social media connections receive their information from. Even with our access to the wide world around us, we too often form our opinions and worldviews based on whatever shows up in our particular online feeds and connections.
The people we view as influential has even been shaped in large part by technology, as evidenced by the “instafame” that resulted from our connectedness. We admire those with the most likes and followers, and many young people look up to the Kim Kardashians of the world rather than the Elon Musks.
Three Ways To Maximize Technology’s Benefits — And Limit Its Negatives
Those of us who are aware of technology’s negative effects can counteract the disadvantages and reap the most value from technology. Here are three ways to utilize technology as intelligently as possible:
1. Test your efforts. We all want to use technology to improve our performance, efficiencies and communications. But what if the technology you use isn’t improving your results? Here’s an exercise you might want to try: Most of us text or email our friends and contacts rather than calling them or sending a letter. Choose a small portion of your list — maybe a couple of VIPs and a couple of general contacts. Create a campaign and test your results when you call someone or send a letter to this group. Note any improvements or deeper connections that may result.
2. Test your balance. Examine your life. Not just your business life, but also your personal life, your health, your hobbies and so forth. If your technology is working for you, then you’ll find that you are either balanced or consistently improving these areas in your life. If not, seek opportunities to spend more time connecting face to face, even if it involves video capabilities like Skype.
3. Test your tools. Ask yourself: Why did I choose the specific tools and technologies I’m currently using? What tools are others in my industry using? What technologies do my potential clients use to find me or to schedule appointments with me? Is my technology working to make me more successful, or am I just overwhelmed with upkeep?
Fridman had the following closing thoughts regarding technology’s benefits and downfalls: “Technology has enabled the transformation of our behavior at its core. We think faster, with more agility. We are closer to unlocking our highest potential than ever. But I think we have to be conscious of becoming addicted to endless streams of information and the possible slide into shallow relationships it can cause.”
And that’s solid advice. To get the most out of technology, always seek opportunities for richer interactions. And be aware that our technology doesn’t tell the whole “human” story.