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The inescapable vortex of technology

Grace Kimmell, Anchor Staff

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: cell phones are a distraction, a neuron-corroding poison and they have no place whatsoever in schools. This all too familiar refrain echoes throughout the halls of modern academia. Colleges, too, are not immune to the panicked pleas from those who would wrench our beloved iPhones from our possession in a desperate attempt to cultivate much needed critical thinking and interpersonal skills. As students, we often ask, “Why do we need to know this?” In this instance, maybe we should be asking, “Do they have a point?”

 After all, how many times have you seen your friend, significant other or family members yanked into the vortex of their phone screen instead of paying attention to your wit, good looks or sparkling banter? Yeah, we have all been there. We’ve certainly seen (or been) the distracted student in an 8 a.m. class ambling through our Instagram and seeing the fifteenth picture this week of Karen apple picking with her new flame (it won’t last) rather than attending to our academic obligations. It would be disingenuous to say that we’re not distracted, that we’re not more distant when we’re lost in the trappings of tech. But I don’t think technology is the problem. I think technology only magnifies who we are and exacerbates our natural predilections. If properly cultivated, our relationship with technology could be a panacea to many of the interpersonal ills that plague us, especially on a college campus. Schools, even and perhaps especially colleges, should not focus on restricting students’ use of technology. Rather, schools should model all of the ways that technology can bring us together and immerse us in an authentic, rich dialogue about the world around us. After all, isn’t that the real point of education? 

Because of technology, I’ve been able to stumble upon like-minded people fighting for many of the same social causes that are important to me. I’ve been able to FaceTime with my grandmother as she treks across the midwestern plains of the US in search of adventure. I’ve even been able to engage in impromptu tutoring with friends on the other side of the country when I need help proofreading things like these articles. Technology can be magic. And that magic comes from facilitating the peerless joy of meaningful human interaction.

This seems especially relevant to a school like RIC, where our population is mostly comprised of commuters. We’re all Anchormen, but what truly anchors us here at RIC isn’t geographic proximity like on many traditional campuses. We’re rooted here at RIC because we have a shared passion, common curiosity and mutual commitment to building a better world. We would be wise to use technology to bring groups together, doing things like having real-life meetings in virtual spaces. Clubs on campus using technology strategically to ultimately bring more people to their meetings despite a lack of proximity would only strengthen the fabric of our RIC community. In using technology to promote social or academic interests that can bring us together on campus, instead of using it to isolate ourselves in suffocatingly selfish bubbles, we’ll have a much more connected student body. 

Technology isn’t going away. Our interpersonal skills don’t have to, either. Use it to your advantage. Ask that cutie you low-key like for their number and then ask them to meet up. Email your professor and follow up with them in person about that question you don’t quite understand. Text that friend that you haven’t talked to in a while and ask to hang out soon. Make a new group/club and use social media to promote it to other students/friends. Every inevitable update to our technology doesn’t have to rollback our humanity.