Edward Maina’s article ‘How technology is enslaving us’ was a jeremiad about the malign influence of society. It was interesting and thought-provoking, but unfortunately he was largely wrong.
For starters, there is the assertion that we have lost the original purpose of email, and it is now used for the most trivial messages. Maybe I am missing something, but why should the original meaning of email ensure that all our interactions with it are set in stone?
Technology is supposed to be adapted to our daily needs. While I do think email can- and does- get misused- this does not imply any sort of slavery or moral degeneracy. If anything, the objections to misuse of email are easier to articulate from a practical perspective.
In any case, I don’t know anyone who would send me an email in lieu of calling me if that is the more practical solution. Furthermore, people who have more than one email address usually have a good reason- there is no point in having your work and social emails in one address. It is certainly not to show they are ‘better informed’. That is a curious assertion that I have yet to come across.
And blasting Facebook and Twitter by arguing that it is all about vanity misses the point. Obviously we can all think of a few people whose Facebook accounts show them as poster boys (and girls) for vanity, but Facebook is ultimately a tool of communication. I am by no means a big fan and I do realize people spend too much time there, but there is no intrinsic harm in it’s’ use, only in its misuse. Facebook is a very convenient way of keeping in touch and rather than alienating us from each other, such social networking tools often help to bring us closer together even when we are geographically separate.
I can keep up with my friends in England through Facebook and have a good understanding f what is going on in their lives instead of sending constant emails.
Meanwhile, claiming Twitter is a vanity tool reveals a lack of understanding about quite how effective it can be if the user intends to use it productively. If you are so inclined, you can learn an amazing amount of things on Twitter because people use it to post interesting links to articles and studies you would otherwise have missed.
You can be directed to an infinite number of pages that are tailored to your interests, but only if you haven’t ruled out Twitter as some kind of trivial fad. And as we saw during the failed Iranian uprising a few months ago, it can galvanize the youth and help them plug into the political machine in a very effective way. In this context, there is no such thing as ‘information overload.’
Ultimately all this technology gives us choice- the very opposite of slavery. You can pick and choose how you interact with these new tools, but you cannot deny it has revolutionized the world in a largely positive way.
Whether you want to learn or merely to indulge in your hobbies and trivial interests, the digital revolution has you covered, and I think that’s a good thing. How can this reduce original powers of thought?
Taking hundreds of pictures or posting on Facebook pages is merely interaction in a different format from the olden days. It can be misused just like anything else can, but doom and gloom about gadgets and the internet is completely misguided.
Minega Isibo is a lawyer