Research on the ways technology impacts human lives, surprisingly for many, is not a 21st-century invention. Even in the 1980s, it was already clear that technological advances are gaining faster pace daily, and that adaptation is the only way to deal with all the sudden changes and to not get left out. Even though the impact of new technologies was recognized, it was only recently that it became transparent that those had a tremendous impact on new generations and intergenerational communication.
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Hence, social relations became the main focus of the analysis of technological impact. As youth is the social group, mostly affected by technological shifts, it is also them who quickly adapt to the results of those shifts. Antonucci, Ajrouch, and Manalel (2017), in their work “Social Relations and Technology: Continuity, Context, and Change,” are very clear about the fact that technology changed the nature of social interaction itself. Many new methods of communication appeared, transforming human relations tremendously, and directly affecting social experiences and well-being in general. Facebook, Snapchat, or Skype appear to be means of the same communication processes. Still, the truth is that those shape new rules of interaction and sets of values, and, consequently, new communication systems.
However, there are many benefits brought around by technology the society enjoys. For instance, increased mobility led to the establishment of more complex family structures and intergenerational ties, that are maintained through technological advances (Antonucci et al., 2017). So, people, in general, are less attached to each other geographically, and the importance of remaining close to the family in order to remain contact diminished. The increased longevity of life spans provides more opportunities for older adults “to build relationships with younger generations,” contributing to the reduction of the generation gap (Antonucci et al., 2017, para. 15). Though social relations experiences are different, depending on age, status, and relationship type, the benefits of introducing technology are clear.
While sometimes technology helps build up ties, it does often degrade the quality of human interactions. As Antonucci et al. (2017) state, it is widespread that “more technologically proficient may feel frustrated with friends and relatives who struggle to communicate with newer technologies” (para. 18). Thus, it is also true that technology contributes to the expansion of the generation gap and the erosion of human relations. Moreover, these experiences are shared by most people, as online communication is gradually replacing personal communication, and it is becoming more challenging to maintain a balance between these two types of interaction.
The erosion of social relations and the fact that people can use technology to build connections or destroy them is not the only problem that has arisen with it becoming an integral part of human life. Many traditional concepts and values that characterized the way of life of previous generations became irrevocably outdated or lost their importance. One of those was the concept of family, although there were many others.
As mentioned earlier, the very structure of social relations changed, and unnoticed by many, a new system of values emerged. Within this new system, there already is a whole generation of youth that hardly understands that there was something before the mindsets and values they uphold. The impact of technology on human life is undoubtedly vast and irreversible, but it is essential to maintain the perspective that this is not the only possible way. Instead, it is the result of evolution, the course of which must be understood; otherwise, each new generation will erase the legacy of the previous.
Antonucci, T., Ajrouch, K., & Manalel, J. (2017). Social relations and technology: Continuity, context, and change. Innovation in Aging, 1(3). Web.