Following the growth of the Internet of Things, and the general boom in technology available to the public, more people question the impact technology has on the way society works.
95% of Americans now own a smartphone. 96% of Americans shop online, meaning fewer opportunities to chat with neighbors or take part in the local community. Concerns around privacy, and the inability to touch or handle items, still prompt shoppers to visit physical stores.
Such double-sided concerns beg the question – is technology making people less social?
Video Game Consoles
You might struggle to consider video games as being social. What’s sociable about sitting in a darkened room, chasing zombies around a virtual space?
The early days of video games saw groups of friends gather at arcades. The communal experience moved into the living room with the release of early consoles like SEGA’s Master System (1986) or the first Nintendo console (1985).
But as the consoles get more sophisticated, the opportunities for multi-player options change. Many games only offer such an option if you play online. Instead of playing alongside friends in your living room, you challenge players all over the world.
Such a move has led to the birth of competitive online gaming and players can amass huge online followings by posting their gameplay on YouTube. The community is open to anyone, meaning those in remote areas with no opportunity for sharing video games in person can still take part.
With the rise in streaming devices and services such as Netflix, some worry about the impact on social forms of entertainment such as going to the movies. The number of movie tickets sold in 2014 was down 6% from the previous year.
The falling prices of smart TVs or home movie systems allow people to recreate the movie experience at home. The opportunity to gather with friends to watch a sporting event, a reality show, or a film is easier than ever.
Best of all, users can control the lighting, the temperature, and their smart TV from the same device using an app like the SURE Universal remote. You may not be socializing with huge rooms full of strangers, but you’re still sharing the entertainment experience with others’.
If you’ve been to any public gathering, you’ll have noticed the number of people glued to their smartphones. Concert-goers are used to the sight of hundreds of mobile phones pointed at the stage, with people more concerned with what they’re filming to post online, rather than the show. People used to make small talk while they waited in line or stopped for a coffee. Now, they’re engrossed in their phone.
A 2015 study revealed that 87% of millennials ignored real life conversations in favor of checking their smartphone. They’re a generation often accused of “fear of missing out” – living their life on social media so they don’t miss something. They spend too much time checking what other people are posting instead of experiencing things for themselves.
The simplicity of smartphones and their easy connection to the internet makes it oh-so-tempting to “just check Facebook.” People spend a lot of time taking photos, finding the perfect filter, and then checking for replies after uploading a snap.
But that’s taking a one-sided view. The smartphone and its wide range of apps also let you Skype your grandmother on the other side of the country. Or you can keep in touch with your old college friends and maintain friendships that distance might otherwise sour.
Smartphones have altered in-person interaction. But the amount of communication between people hasn’t changed. Only the platform has.
Sociologist Charles Cooley noted in 1909 that it was strange “that a man should sit down to his breakfast table and – instead of conversing with his wife and children – hold before his face a sort of screen on which is inscribed a world-wide gossip.” He was talking about the morning newspaper, but what else does it sound like?
If humanity survived the coming of the morning paper, then we will survive our array of technology!
Over to you – do you think technology is making us less social? Or maybe we’re just socializing differently?