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I have specifically chosen Progress by Max Cougar as my topic for further research because of the sheer contemporaneity and importance of its subject. Technologies are becoming more advanced with each day, and so does communication. The real question, though, is whether this advancement heads toward the right direction. Although it is hard to believe that technologies could ever substitute face-to-face conversation, with the current tempo of scientific and technological development anything can become possible given enough time.
Being a common user of technologies myself, I think it would be logical to investigate the issue as Max Cougar did. In fact, many of the things that were told by Max in his presentation had already been known to me or at least assumed by me. However, in order to better understand and realize the context of the issue regarding communication through technologies, it would take more than one presentation. My goal is to establish whether the advancement of communication does indeed affect society in a detrimental way, or it is just a necessary evolution process we have to go through.
Progress by Max Cougar Oswald
Max’s choice of combining recorded and in-person speech was his way of displaying the difference between the effects of the speech made in person and the one using modern technologies, and, ultimately, proving his main point – the necessity of drawing the line where the abundant usage of technology may turn into decadence. He did this in order to show that even though using technologies for conversation is easier, it would not provide the same effect as speaking to people in person.
Max provides us with his personal examples of how technology, notably Facebook, has changed the true meaning of friendship. He mentions that despite having thousands of friends on Facebook, he barely even knows them. Max also questions the effects of multitasking that is provided by technology today by stating that “quantity is vitiating quality” (“Progress”). He backs up this claim with an example of how multiple conversations in online chatting distract people from giving their full consideration to what is being discussed in those conversations. As a frequent user of online technologies, I find this statement to be rather true and corresponding to the actual reality.
Max also discusses the cheapness of today’s communication because of how easy and accessible it is. His reasoning for making this claim is that compared to letters that were written centuries ago, the current way of delivering information takes away the meaningfulness of messages. I partially agree with this, as the efforts to write a letter were indeed much higher, but, at the same time, it all depends on how one can write a message.
By switching from the recorded presentation to speaking to the audience in person, Max further proves his point that technologies cannot fully deliver the same experience of communicating face-to-face. He makes an important conclusion that people should pay attention to how technologies affect us, and carefully consider what these technologies are trying to replace.
Further research into the issue
For a better understanding of the problem regarding the anti-socialization caused by the rapid development of technologies, the benefits of face-to-face communication should be defined. Brad Hunter argues that online or telephone interactions are not nearly as valuable as face-to-face interactions (Hunter par.7). He explains that by providing examples of his personal online experiences, where he tended to notice that the behavior of people on the Internet could differ from the one in real life. In order to strengthen his point, Hunter carried out an experiment that involved giving questionnaires to Stanford students.
The questionnaires included a series of statements that students could either agree or disagree upon. Half of the students were required to write their answers on paper and hand them to the questioner, others filled the questionnaires online (Hunter par.7). The results of this experiment indicated that those students who filled questionnaires online had much more extreme answers. I have personally witnessed a lot of crazy things that came from people on the Internet, so in this regard, I agree with Brad Hunter. Although people can act strangely in real life too, the fact that they are not in front of people makes them feel too secure at times.
Lee Cheng Ean of Taylor’s University, Malaysia, conducted a study regarding the employees’ preference for face-to-face and computer-mediated communication channels. Results of the study did not clearly indicate the preferred communication channel but provided deep insight into how employees treated each way of communication. In states that the interviewees perceived face-to-face communication as a more efficient channel, especially for building relationships with managers (Ean 45). They also named other advantages of face-to-face communication, such as direct feedback and multiple information cues. Even though this study is limited to the work environment, the effectiveness of face-to-face communication over the computer-mediated channel applies to various parts of our life.
The argument for the effectiveness of face-to-face communication might not sound strong enough if this effectiveness is measured simply by the perception of people. Scientific reasoning provided by Dr. Joseph Mercola might shed some light on the subject of face-to-face communication and its effectiveness. Mercola explains the benefits of communication in person on the example meetings.
He provides us with results from various researches, indicating that talking to someone in person synchronizes your brain better with the brain of your interlocutor. Another research mentioned by Dr. Mercola has proved that face-to-face meetings “allow members to come up with more ideas and become more capable as a group compared to virtual meetings” (Mercola par.15). The doctor also assures that these attributes apply in real life too.
Undoubtedly, technologies have drastically changed the way people communicated with each other at present. The strange part is that even though most people are aware of the social issue deriving from the overuse of technologies, most will likely continue to use them regardless. Emily Drago conducted a survey that asked students of Elon University 11 questions regarding “their technology use, habits, perceptions of face-to-face communication in the presence of technology, and engagement both face to face and screen to screen” (Drago 15). The survey results showed that most of the students could be classified as “reliant” on technologies, although they admitted that the level of conversation through technologies has vastly degraded over years.
The degradation of communication in modern society was also described by John Shand in one of his articles. Shand does not deny the advantages of communication through text and media, but questions whether these advantages outweigh the deleterious effects such communication provides. According to Shand, these effects include “a loss of privacy, of peace, and of the delights of at least temporary isolation.” (Shand 92).
My personal standings on the matter still remain unchanged – everyone is subject to determine whether the use of technologies is beneficial or maleficent to them. There is no denying that face-to-face communication will remain superior to communication through technologies, but to discredit the positive contribution of technologies to uniting people all over the globe would not be the right thing to do. At the end of the day, everyone draws his own line that separates the influence of technology from the real-life experience.
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Drago, Emily. The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication. n.d. Web.
Ean, Lee Cheng. “Face-to-face Versus Computer-mediated Communication: Exploring Employees’ Preference of Effective Employee Communication Channel.” International Journal for the Advancement of Science & Arts 2.1 (2010): 38-48. Print.
Hunter, Brad. The Subtle Benefits of Face-To-Face Communication. n.d. Web.
Mercola, Joseph. The Power of Face-to-Face Meetings in a Digital World. 2015. Web.
Oswald, Max Cougar. “Progress.” Online video file. YouTube. 2011. Web.
Shand, John. “The Degradation of Human Relations Through Instant and Ever-present Communication, and the New Etiquette It Requires.” Journal of Philosophy of Life 2.1 (2012): 92-101. Print.