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Does Technology Manage Us?

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Posted At: March 5, 2012 2:00 PM
by Savannah Bass

Everyone has done it. You check your phone during an important dinner, church or meeting. You cringe when you leave your phone behind for a few hours, afraid that you might miss something. Instead of calling someone for a quick question, you send a text message and have to wait longer than you would have if you had just called the person. We tweet and post comments to our closest of friends, bypassing traditional conversation to use the media at our fingertips.

It comes as no surprise that social media and technology altogether have entirely changed the way we interact with friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances, but just how far has our engagement with social media gone? Have we completely abandoned previous forms of communication and furthermore, is the future of communication going to be jeopardized by technology?

Those questions and more should be of extreme importance to public relations practitioners. As PR practitioners strive to spread a common message and gain awareness for their specific event or cause, they need to take note of the ways that people are able to avoid, ignore and delete their messages in an instant.

In Adam Ostrow’s article “Is Social Media Actually Making Us Less Connected?” posted on Mashable.com, Ostrow sources Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at MIT, who is very outspoken and passionate about the detriments of technology. Turkle expresses concern stating: “Technology is taking us places we don’t want to go.”

Turkle’s argument stems from observation, explaining that lack of face-to-face communication poses consequences for our relationships and emotions as average people learn to edit and censor their conversations. In reference to texting, emailing and posting on social media sites, Turkle stated, “We get to edit, we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch.”

She notes that we as technology-savvy humans get to choose what we pay attention to and what we want to connect with. In addition, we separate ourselves from our surroundings by constantly being connected to our phones.

This article resonated with me because of the relevance of Turkle’s argument in not only my peers’ lives, but in my own. We all are conscious of how connected we are by the sheer amount of time our friends and family spend texting and tweeting to initiate conversation, but we are not always conscious of the repercussions of our actions. As Turkle explained, we can retouch and edit the way we receive messages, causing us to tune out conflict and conversation by simply putting our phones away.

These concerns need to be of high priority to public relations practitioners because if people are already able to pick and choose which messages they want to receive and reject with the touch of a button, what will the future of public relations become? Technology is always advancing so the time is ticking on how to get consumers to engage even further.

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