How is technology changing our perception of reality and the way we view things?

Technology has allowed us to view what we want, when we want it. If I want to see what the Mona Lisa looks like, all I have to do is type in “Mona Lisa” on Google and thousands of images pop up. Now I've never been able to go and see the Mona Lisa in person, but if I were, I bet my perception of the Mona Lisa would change from how it is now. The Mona Lisa is a small painting on a huge wall hidden beneath bullet proof glass. It is nothing like the pictures of it that makes it seem like it is way bigger than it actually is. The fact is that the internet doesn't even come close to allowing you to experience a place or a piece of art or a historic building, as actually being there feels. When you go some place magnificent, it feels magnificent. I want to get that feeling, but technology can only do so much and it changes how we view the world.

Society today is used to viewing multiple screens at once. This changes the way we view things because we only view bits and pieces of everything instead of the whole picture. For example, the image to the left is of a girl doing her homework while watching television at the same time. The camera is not focused on her face, but on the screens in front of her where she is directing her attention. She has her friend beside her, but they are not interacting. This is their form of “socializing”.

The message the maker is trying to send is that even when groups of people are hanging out, they detach themselves from really being with each other by using their devices. We customize our experiences by doing multiple things at once, such as watch television while doing homework. In this situation we don’t have to choose one activity over another because we can do both at the same time. Although this may cause you to miss small details of the show and not allow you to be fully focused on your homework, multi-tasking has become a skill that everyone has nowadays. The questions that arise from this image is, “How often do we look at multiple screens at once?” and “Has technology forced society into becoming multi-taskers?”

In Sherry Turkle’s 2012 TED Talk on “Alone Together,” Turkle discusses the concept of users distracting themselves with their devices while being together. In the beginning she shows an image of her daughter and her friends hanging out while on their cell phones. This image is all too familiar. Everyone wants to be together but then they don’t spend quality time together.

Nowadays people are trying to document every moment of their life and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. With Snapchat we get to look into each others lives and see what others are doing which is a great way for individuals to connect with their friends. However, by taking these Snapchats we partially detach ourselves from living the moments ourselves. The photo below displays how technology has diverted our attention away from those around us.

The screen distorts the image portrayed in front of the user by making it seem absolutely perfect. This is how today’s society tries to portray everything. Whenever we take a photograph, users try to make it so the lighting and the view are perfect and that the emotion is captured in it. By doing this you reveal to your friends and family the moments you think are perfect and conceal the not so perfect ones. You give others a distorted sense of reality because nothing is ever truly perfect, especially when your only experiencing the moment through a screen. Although some would argue that the users cell phone allowed her to capture this moment forever, it doesn’t change the fact that the user didn’t truly get to experience the moment for herself. I’m always happy when others take pictures of me because it allows me to live the moment as well as have the opportunity to look back on it later, but I don’t like trying to capture moments myself.

My mother is usually the woman behind the camera. She wants to capture everything for my family so that we can look back on what we have done. However, there are only a handful of photos of my mom. If my mom had put down the camera, I would have more memories of her by my side. Hiding behind a screen can hide you from the world. You get to capture every moment but you have no proof of you existing and living it for yourself. This reminds me of the novel The Circle by David Eggers because they discuss technology and how it changes society. This quote is from the main characters ex-boyfriend who has seen the way she has changed with her increased use of technology. He says, “You’re not very interesting anymore. You sit at a desk twelve hours a day and you have nothing to show for it except for some numbers that won’t exist or be remembered in a week. You’re leaving no evidence that you lived. There’s no proof” (Eggers 262). Instead of living behind a screen, we need to step away from it and just be.

The image above is of a young child holding up a phone to his face; it looks as if the child is in love with the phone and is welcoming it into its life. He is full of innocence but the device he is holding is capable of showing him the world. The answers to all the questions he will ever have are in the palm of his hands.

I believe the maker included this photo with the rest of his 2×12 images because it shows how technology can easily take away our innocence and bring us into a whole new world. Questions that arise from examining this photo is “How is the sippy cup on the booster chair is significant to this photo?” and “Is this image typical of today’s society? Why or why not?” I believe this photo is saying that our society today has changed. We have fully welcomed technology into our lives and have fallen in love with it. We depend on technology so much that we’d be lost without it. It has taken away our innocence.

When people look down at our phones they can’t fully pay attention to what’s going on around them. I’ve walked away from others a few times because I tried having a conversation with them but I ended up having to continually repeat myself because they were focused on their phones. Interacting via technology has become easier than interacting in person.

In society today we feel awkward walking through a crowd of people alone, so we turn to our phones. We no longer sit in a car or on a train and interact with those around us, we interact with the people through our screen. Whenever we have a moment to ourselves we turn to our phones and don’t think twice about it. We try to stay connected with each other as much as possible but it’s all done digitally. In The Circle, Eggers writes, “The tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying. It improves nothing. It’s not nourishing. It’s like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifically determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You’re not hungry, you don’t need food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addictive” (Eggers 134). We are addicted to socializing online and it distracts us from being and living.

There are many benefits to technology such as being able to stay connected to friends from around the world or skyping friends who go to different colleges or even skyping your parents during dinner time in order to make it feel like you are home when you’re away. Yes, I have actually had dinner with my parents via skype. You can be with your friends without actually being there with them in person. However, those are not the elements of technology I am criticizing. I’m criticising the elements of technology that disconnect you from living your life.

People are addicted to Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook; they have a craving to know everything about everyone, but what benefit does this bring to us as people? In The Circle by David Eggers it says, “Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need mysteries of night and the clarity of day? You people are creating a world of ever-present daylight” (Eggers 434). This brings up the idea that maybe there is such as thing as too much information. And how much information is actually beneficial?

Overall, although technology has major benefits, it also has many consequences. We should be able to leave our homes or dorms without our phones. We should stay connected to the real-world and not let it pass us by. We must leave behind actual proof of our existence instead of putting it all in a cloud. We are people and we have actual voices; lets start using them. And look up.