Has technology impacted who we are?

Have you ever been walking behind someone while they were talking on their cell phone, and heard their entire, personal conversation about who they hooked up with the other night? Have you ever been on Facebook and seen a status that deserves the “TMI” statement? These issues are common in our ever-changing world of technology and Professor Jarice Hanson knows it all to well.

The University of Massachusetts professor recently gave a presentation for the Soundings program last week addressing technology and its impact on us.

“If someone said, they were going to take away your favorite technology, what would you immediately protect?” she asked the mostly freshmen audience.

Answers ranged from Xboxes to laptop computers, but the general consensus was cell phones. Many agreed that if their cell phone was taken away, it would stress them out. Hanson then asked a follow-up question: “When we are using technologies, are we really aware of the kinds of behaviors that we’re starting to use?”

Most people don’t think about it and through her presentation, Hanson tries to change that.

One of her main points included what she called the “actor-observer paradox.” She explained it as the difference between how we perceive ourselves and others in terms of technology. She used the example of turning off your cell phone during a movie. It is a rule that you should do this, but not everybody does it.

“People make excuses for their own behavior . It’s ‘I know this is wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway’ kind of thing,” she said.

Another aspect of technology is the changing concept of time and Hanson used the example of cell phones yet again.

“If you have a cell phone, you have the ability to call people now, you have the ability to text people now.but you’re not being very considerate of other people and what they’re going through.[With texting] you don’t have to wait for an appropriate time, you can do it right then.”

So with the Internet and cell phones, is society becoming meaner or more rude? It could go both ways. In terms of rudeness, there is the obvious instance of talking on your cell phone in a public place. But Hanson also addressed the more serious side of technology, like the suicides of young people due to cyber bullying.

Hanson’s other topics included multi-tasking through technology, the value of privacy with certain social networks (like Facebook) and the comfort that technology allows us in our daily lives. Although some students ironically continued to text through Hanson’s presentation, many were made aware of their technology use, like Margy Kerschner, a freshman.

“I thought it was pretty interesting – just the way people work now and how they use the Internet. It affects me because I always get distracted. I try doing a paper and I end up on Facebook. It gets me off track. I think I’m going to try to change my habits, but it’s hard, it’s not something you can do over night.”

Meagan Larrabee, a sophomore, agrees and plans to take more dramatic steps.

“I feel like we rely on technology too much and we can’t use our brains for anything else.I’m thinking about deleting my Facebook. It’s going to happen one of these days. It’s such a hassle, there’s so much drama that goes on face book, what’s the point?” she said.

Harice was brought to campus by Communication professor Thomas Conroy.

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