Digital Communication: Pain or Blessing?

Ever heard of a “text thumb” or a “Blackberry-neck”? Doctors report that more and more people are complaining about pain in their backs, shoulders, arms and hands. The ongoing surge of handheld technology, like smart phones, laptops, video games and music players, is leading to a new wave of aches and pains. “The latest technology is great, but it is also a literal pain in the neck,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here I am typing these lines on a laptop, but I cannot say that I am surprised by the findings of this report. All day you see people around you who frantically work their small handheld machines in more often uncomfortable positions. Nowadays digital devices dictate most lives.

The story in the Chronicle made me think about a book I read recently. In The Tyranny of E-mail, the author John Freeman makes the obvious point that most of us are too busy sending emails, tweeting or updating our Facebook pages that we never really meet people. We hardly make real connections, not with each other, not with nature around us. And I’m sure that’s not good for our souls. We need to belong. We need real friends.

There is a lot to be said in favor of Freeman’s suggestion to substantially cut back on our use of computers and digital communication in favor of real meetings, real conversations or real walks: Picking up the phone instead of sending another email, sending a real post card with a stamp instead of a digital one. Don’t you like receiving a handwritten letter amidst the invoices and direct mail that clutters your mailbox nowadays?

After reading Freeman’s book I was criticizing my own habits and contemplating a fresh start of the year with a more disciplined use of digital media. Right at the same time Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake. I followed the terrible news on my computer as I’m sure most of us did. At first there were no communications with the largely destroyed Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. And then soldiers were able to re-establish the cell phone network. Suddenly from under the rubble survivors could turn on their phones and let the world know where they were, using the very systems like Twitter that I had started to think we could very well do without.

Lives were saved because of modern digital media. Sights like based on innovative software especially designed for similar purposes in Kenya began to provide the essential connections that real life could no longer provide. The stories brought tears to my eyes and made me, once more, see that there is really no simple good and bad as it comes to the good things of the past and the modern innovations of today. Digital communication and handheld devices are not bad as such. It is our challenge to embrace them in such a way that we honor the good things of the past. I’m sure that that would cure quite a few “text thumbs” and “Blackberry necks.”

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Ashlyine B.
Ashlyine B.2 years ago

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Darya Tumanova
Darya Tumanova4 years ago

thanks for the article. true.

Bon L.
Bon L.5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lucasul L.
Lucasul L.5 years ago

"Guys, please note wireless technology has many hazards (including type 3 diabetes) " - now thats a scary thing. In my office almost everything is wireless... Anyway, wouldn't like for my kids to live in such a technilogized world. It's almost inhuman. And btw, i love kids spelling games

AMY dunaway

Jurian : Really enjoyed the mag ODE! I agree with you!

Andrew H.
- -.5 years ago

Guys, please note wireless technology has many hazards (including type 3 diabetes)

This Canadian female professor describes in a short video:

Marianne Good
Past Member 5 years ago

New technology is good for urgent communication. However there is a consideration of how much time am I going to spend on these things. It should be an equal balance on every area in our lives.

Helen B.
Helen B.5 years ago's true...but i cannot live without them..i will go on trips without them andspend timewith nature and i will limit myself to how long i can use them each day...sand if i go over..i willl take away time from the other orms that i was planning on using that day!

Joseph Yanik
Joseph Yanik5 years ago

Like ANYTHING in the world, moderation is ALWAYS the key. Every thing that we use, eat, do, observe, have, etc. has trade-offs: benefits & costs.

I, personally, think that our entire planet (particularly the "West") needs to slow down a little. We go go go, way too fast, thinking that we always have to be "doing something productive." But research is beginning to PROVE (as we all know intuitively) that multitasking and rushing through life is DETRIMENTAL to our overall goals (no matter what they be).

I think it's amazing that we are so "connected." But real life connections, human to human, human to nature, nature to human, have suffered. Aren't these interactions where life really occurs anyway? Life is not worth living if it's done vicariously through a hi-def screen and mobile device.

These tools can (and do) make parts of life MUCH easier and faster than before. Conversely, they also complicate and clog our lives with subsequent effects that were not apparent before the widespread use of these tools. How many hours have you "lost" absorbed in meaningless internet surfing?

Point is: good & bad are a part of everything. Everything has the potential to provide a good or service. Yet at the same time, everything has the potential to cause a bad or disservice. Moderation is where it's at! Always!

Judith Crofts
Judith C.5 years ago

We probably over-use the high-tech toys because they are new and a bit complicated and take up more time than we really wish they did.