Pros and Cons of Our Brave New Technological World

Yesterday, SI.com’s Adrian Dater wrote an interesting piece about how technology is adversely affecting team bonding. Dater starts:

Teammates in pro sports today are talking more than ever, just not as much to each other.

Ask many coaches, general managers and older players and you’ll hear a common gripe: chemistry on teams has been altered because of modern technology, and not for the better. The rise of smartphones, with all their instant-communication and entertainment options, have created insular worlds into which distracted players too often retreat instead of bonding with teammates.

As this relates to sports, I am sure that those who have been around since before we had the internet and comprehensive music libraries in the palms of our hands are correct that technology has had a noticeable effect on team chemistry. This issue, however, probably does not impact wins and losses because it is universal and therefore presumably affects all teams equally. It is not as if one team has succumbed to its iPhones but its opponent has the camaraderie of a team from 1985.

Obviously, the insane technological advances of the last 15 years or so affect interpersonal communication in broader society as well as sports. We walk around tuned into headphones and tuned out to those around us. In pauses of conversation we use our smart phones as a crutch to stay stimulated at the expense of fighting through awkward moments. As my dad always points out, when one person at the table pulls out his Blackberry it has a domino effect until everyone is stealing glances at their phones. It is now common at restaurants to see little kids tapping away incessantly on iPads, completely ignoring the world around them.

However, just because face-to-face communication is inhibited does not mean that technology is destroying interpersonal relationships. Through Facebook, GMail, GChat, and texting, I have been able to maintain close friendships with people whom I would have almost certainly completely lost touch with. When I travel to cities, I can easily contact people I haven’t seen in YEARS to meet up in person for a meal or drinks. Until the proliferation of cell phones, long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive and old acquaintances often communicated by mailing handwritten letters. These could take weeks to be delivered and twice as long to hear back from. As annoying as it is when a phone call, email, or text goes un-returned, I cannot even fathom how taken aback I would be if I took the time to HANDWRITE and MAIL a letter and never heard back.

What did people do when they were bored at work before the internet opened up boundless entertainment options? Actual work? Just the thought of trying to figure out what in the world I would do if I were stuck in a cubicle with no Twitter, Facebook, or GChat makes me fully understand why Don Draper got hammered every day.

The SI.com column does acknowledge the advantages that technology can have on players’ performance: “Before I even go hit, I’ve seen the [opposing pitcher’s] last 10 starts on my iPad,” 40-year old Jason Giambi told Dater. “It’s pretty amazing. The scouting and information you can get right away today is unbelievable.”

Ways that technology enhances bonding among teammates, though, go ignored. In discussing this column, my friend Brad pointed out that Deron Williams, for example, spoke in the past about playing online video games with his teammates late into the night: “We come home from road games and we get in at 2 in the morning and can’t go to sleep, so we all go online and play ‘Call of Duty’ and talk crap. We’ve played until like 5 in the morning before.” Not that video games are the paragon of productivity but is there anything safer that a basketball team could be doing to bond from 2-5 am?

As with the rest of the world, though, technology affects interpersonal chemistry in sports. The trade-off  of our instant stimulation is that face-to-face communication is in danger of becoming obsolete and we should be taking conscious steps in our daily lives to ensure that this is not the case. However, we don’t want to be like Glenn Beck and idealize the 1950s but ignore how great we have it today. Would any of us really want to give up everything that humans have created over the past 50 years and go back to an era where we MIGHT have had a black and white TV with three channels? It is understandable that some are worried that we are going to devolve into a world of screens and never actually talk to each other. We must continue to embrace new technology but be aware of the effects it has on us, seeking to maximize the benefits but work to maintain some semblance of face-to-face conversation so it does not become extinct.

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2 Responses to Pros and Cons of Our Brave New Technological World

  1. Dale says:

    It used to take 30 years and a bunch of you would DIE on the way there
    (louis CK)

  2. F. Weisburgh says:

    The good old days. They were good, and so are these current ones! Usually, I was too busy at work to be bored! Certainly, raising 4 kids under 6 yrs old! Technology certainly has brought change. And it’s great to be part of it all. Hope you’re enjoying it too. Love, Grammy

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