Does Technology Use You More Than You Use It?

I attended an Instameet recently.

It’s a funny thing when people who only know usernames and profile pictures get together in real life and ask if that’s really so-and-so. You think you have a lot in common with someone because of pictures on his or her Instagram feed, but when you’re looking the person in the face, you find yourself asking all the basic who-are-yous and what-do-you-dos.

Technology that brings people together—now that has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Yet sometimes technology is the very crutch we depend on in awkward social settings, lulls in the dinner conversation, or boredom on the couch next to our significant others.

An advance in science brought us this far, to supercomputing handheld devices and rocketships. When will it bridge the equally gaping chasm of interpersonal relationships?

Perhaps it already has, with things like online dating services that promise complete understanding of one’s personality, beliefs, and desires. Or those ship-straight-to-your-door companies that send you only fashionable clothes they’ve already determined you like because of some form you filled out. Actually, Google probably does have us figured out; those suggested “You Might Also Know…” Google+ profiles of people we actually know (or are married to) when we’re simply trying to check email.

The Tension of Science and Art

Science is at its best when it builds the platform for great art. Science progresses so art can, too. Art is bigger than that, but science can carry it pretty far.

It’s an artform when a human romance sparks because a dating site found potential compatibilities on user profiles. Who doesn’t love seeing friendships started over social media but grown into maturity over coffee, meals, and life experiences?

But if we’re not careful, we’ll build the science so much that it outpaces the art and the heart behind it. Computers render people as binary code that marketers seek to move products and increase profits. Social networks begin selling personal information to make money instead of valuing the privacy and agency of individuals.

People aren’t made for technology; technology is made for people.

If you’re harnessing technology to serve the masses, carry on. We all salute you. If technology is turning you into its slave, morphing your 3D body and complex personality into a simplistic profile, feel the freedom to step away. Turn off the computer and put away the smartphone.

You are more than taps and clicks. Page views and follower counts will never capture who you are.

You are a living work of art.

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How has technology helped you connect with people easier? More difficult?

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