Arment: The technological negatives

The dehumanizing effect that technology has on our species is unmistakable, but accepted by society.

People spend hours on social networking sites instead of going out and being social. In a search for community, a surrogate community has been found. This community is, by and large, a farce. Unlike a real community, where people help and support each other, a social networking community will offer little support when your house floods or you need your car jumped in the morning.

There are people on social networking sites that have thousands of friends. I think it can be agreed that taking it to the extreme of 1,000-plus friends on a social networking site is a poignant example of how superficial these “friendships” are. You get or send a friend request, view a small page of information and a few pictures that represent — many times that misrepresent — the person behind the computer screen, then you are “friends.”

Texting, while useful, has significantly replaced telephone conversations. We move further away from human interaction with many such things that are useful in the sense of utility but not in the sense of expression. E-mails — posts or messages, if you are a social networking site — are extremely useful for business. They communicate quickly, and when used by an articulate person, adequately. Using a utility for business exchanges to fill in what should be human interaction is as ridiculous as it sounds.

As we dehumanize ourselves with technology, we are also dehumanizing each other. The introduction of the Maxim gun, the first machine gun, signaled the rise of machines in warfare. An even better example of this is the Predator drone. Pilots far away from the drone itself control it by remote as it rains hellfire missiles down on people defending their town from American imperialism.

This is considered a good thing to our government and the military. The human element is taken out of the equation. Our side doesn’t see their side screaming and writhing in agony as they bleed out in the sand. Our side doesn’t smell the burning flesh, and doesn’t have a chance to taste their blood as arterial spray shoots pink mist into the air. It’s all on a screen, either as a video-game-esque representation on a LCD or as a statistic on a general’s desk somewhere.

As a society, we aren’t really informed anymore. We consider ourselves to be up to speed with what’s going on, simply by watching a television screen or reading an online blog.

I wrote a column about how people play the race card needlessly at times. I was apprehensive, worrying about the black youth out there that would read my piece, and after retreating back to the lab with pen and paper, would come out and smash me. This never came to pass, though.

I did get a negative reaction from a piece I wrote about Walmart. People aren’t well-informed enough about racial issues, beyond what is put forward by the media, but when it comes to Walmart, they’ll be damned if I say anything bad about that corporate giant.

As a people, where did we lose the plot? Why does a white guy get a free pass when he writes about the race card, but when he writes about a business that exploits the labor force, people are ready to draw swords?

It’s because we’ve lost each other. Between social networking, television, video games, the internet and phones that are more or less laptops, we can no longer see the forest for all the trees. People form opinions about political ideologies without ever having any real world experience.

In the beginning of this nation, the “hero” was everywhere. You had to be ready to fight to the death at a moment’s notice, stand at the bar and orate why you were ready to die for what you believed in to any who would challenge you, and you had to be able to pass this on to your children. Those great men had to be scholars, philosophers and warriors. It slowly came to pass that the “hero” went the way of the buffalo.

Things become easier, and we have become complacent. The world has shrunk and we have replaced talking with texting, e-mails and posts over social networks. We’ve replaced thinking and inquisitiveness with watching media, absorbing the views of others and regurgitating them. I’m afraid that what we are replacing our humanity with is something that isn’t positive.

When we aren’t ourselves, what are we?