Introduction to Technology and People Series: Why Thinking Through Tech is Important to Our Well-Being

Introduction to Technology and People Series: Why Thinking Through Tech is Important to Our Well-Being

Technology has always been near and dear to my heart. As a person who has grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area as the tech industry was starting to mature in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it has always been natural for me to constantly be invested in understanding the pulse of technology. This means that I have been nurtured by my local community to have a passion and curiosity, one may label as a natural interest, in keeping up to date on the latest advancements of computing and consumer electronics. Besides growing up in the area, having family and many of my friend’s parents work in the tech sector meant that even casual conversations would often include what was being developed in whatever tech companies they worked for. This provided ample opportunities for me to try out new and experimental technologies many people had only heard of. Technology was so pervasive that parents among my community would volunteer to teach classes about the technology they were working on like how one person described how Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak did for her when she was in elementary school. This created an environment where embracing technology was part of growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in and around what many may call the heart of the Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale).

Changing careers from being an electrical engineer in the tech industry and completing my doctorate in clinical psychology has afforded me many opportunities to step away from the Bay Area locale, for a decade, to gain greater perspective in the unique environment I grew up in and currently live in, now as an adult with family and children. This has given me great motivation and passion in bringing forth my technical engineering lens and integrating it with my psychologist lens. Residing in Southern California and New York, during my graduate school and clinical training, has helped me to see the similarities and differences between cultures between these three large cities. Being away from the “tech bubble” has allowed me to add a greater perspective and gain a deeper insight into the uniqueness of living and raising a family in the Bay Area, all the while allowing me to observe and understand that what is normal is relative and highly dependent on the many cultural systems (think Bronfenbrenner’s Model of Development) that a person simultaneously lives in. What defines who we are is the many cultures we transition in and out of on a daily basis.

I write all this as a way to introduce you to my lens that sees technology impacting human behavior and culture in my new series about Technology and People. As a person, who is often described as having “crazy passion” about things that I get into, I hope to use my passion to bring a fresh perspective that challenges you to think about who you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your patients, and your clients are in the midst of one of the fastest advancing times in history. We cannot ignore that technology (i.e. smart phones, computers, tablets, internet services) has become one of the core identities of who we are and how we live. And there’s practically no way to live without being affected by the past three decades of technological advances directly and indirectly. We live and breathe technology whether we like it or not.

I am a proponent of getting people to be more conscious and thoughtful of the impact of technology as it affects our relationships, behaviors, philosophical understandings, and choices we make. Technology has a pretty deep grasp and stronghold on all of our lives. Thus my future writings will highlight topics about how we as individuals are being affected in many ways that we are not fully aware of that, I argue, has greater significant impact into our identity than we realize or are even aware of. My goal is to challenge you to think more critically and be more aware of the technological factors that affect the self and interactions with others in hopes that it will foster more enlightening decisions that bring forth a better evolution of you as a professional, friend, and family member.

As a preview of what’s to come, I highlight just a sliver of the ideas that I have spent time thinking through, writing research papers on, and having conversations with friends about.

One idea is how technology is changing the way we interact with the significant people in our lives (significant other, spouse, children, parents, siblings, the people who are important to you) like how browsing the various social feeds we have (Facebook, Instagram) is turning us into people/culture who feel completely comfortable learning about the lives of others passively and viewing the lives of people we know like how we binge watch the latest Netflix or Amazon Prime TV show. This has become a cultural norm that we are interacting/meeting less with our friends on average. Because of the various social feeds we have, we feel that it is less of a priority to engage in relationship with as many friends as we use to due to the constant flow of notifications of where people check-in, vacation, eat, or attractions they visit. I am not saying that this is unacceptable or unhealthy, I am just highlighting that we are becoming less interactive/social as a society and human touch is decreasing the more we get inveloped by technology. Just think about the upcoming trend of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. As we adopt these new technologies, are we just accepting without giving much thought and just resolving to giving the “okay” to living our lives with these products with little to no consideration of how it affects our own identity in the many roles we have as a person?

Gaining a clear picture of our comfort level and stance on the various issues that technology has brought forth (creating an instagram identity/brand, what to share on facebook, using amazon’s echo voice products, watching YouTube instead of television, checking twitter, browsing RSS feeds, reading ebooks on a kindle, keeping track of your heart rate or sleep 24/7, using a tablet or computer as primary computing device) will help us become more adaptable and feel more whole as a person living in the midst of many activities/roles that compete for our time.

I argue that being able to take these understandings and accept life for what it is will make your life better (from the specific individual/family perspective) whether it results in making decisions you are happy with despite being counter cultural. For example, is may be better for you to turn down a seemingly better job or promotion because it impacts too much of your personal moral/ethical systems, personal/family life, and identity. Rather than letting external factors define who we are, we should take inventory and be conscious of what we can do to shape who we are in this world.

More to come.

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