Why Devices Aren't Ruining Experiences and Relationships

Photo of a woman taking a photo by Simone Collins

I am surprised by the number of people who think that technology detracts from in-person interaction and experiences. There has been a terrible misunderstanding. I feel obligated to set the record straight.

Much of this is an issue of misinterpretation.

People see kids grouped together but staring at individual mobile devices and assume each one is lost in a manufactured realm of self-involvement. In all likelihood, those kids are playing an interactive game or reading up on an issue they were discussing. A very similar scenario could be observed 50 years ago as children stare intently at the hand they have been dealt or rifle through baseball cards.

People see a man and woman sitting at a table in a cafe, staring at a tablet and laptop instead of each other, and assume these people rarely speak or enjoy each other's company. In all likelihood, the couple is just enjoying some quiet time together reading blogs, online publications, and ebooks. This scenario is little different from one 100 years ago in which two people quietly look over a newspaper and novel while sipping coffee and munching on scones.

People see groups of friends and families on holiday engrossed in snapping photos with their tablets and staring intently at smartphones with earbuds in their ears and assume they are missing the highlights of a destination. In all likelihood, these people are documenting the location because it means something to them, and consuming more information about it through special guide apps they downloaded on their phones. This scenario is akin to many age-old analog counterparts in which people paint, sketch, and photograph their vacation destinations and enjoy additional insights from tour guides.

People have always augmented their real-world experiences with "devices," be they cards, newspapers, books, cameras, or tour guides. There is no reason to become alarmed about this activity now. If anything, tablets, phones, and laptops have only made these scenarios more social.

Things we do and document on our devices are easier to share with others and more likely to lead to additional conversations and interactions. Children playing games on their phones while hanging out on a lazy afternoon can bring in friends in remote cities. A couple reading digital publications at a cafe can send choice articles to friends, family, and colleagues along with a thoughtful note. Vacationers navigating foreign cities with the help of a mobile app may be introduced to other travelers with whom they would otherwise have no reason to interact.

So the next time you see people fiddling with high tech devices while pounding the pavement, think twice before you judge them negatively. Heck- you might even get more out of your real-world experience by following their example!