Have Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg Improved Our Lives?

Filed in Living by on October 1, 2015 2 Comments

The founders of Apple and Facebook created new technologies that have dramatically transformed our lives, and society in general. The advent of smartphones and tablets, such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and the creation of social media giant Facebook, have been nothing short of revolutionary. Can you imagine your daily life without them?

But I have a question: are we really any better off as a result?

It is certainly true that smartphones and tablets make us much more productive at work. I’m not sure we’re happier, but definitely more productive. Mobile devices that allow us to “bring the office anywhere” and enable speedy communication via text and email are a big improvement in work efficiency for people whose jobs entail travel. Also, all of the outstanding software apps available for these devices greatly enhance productivity.

However, when we start to think of our lives outside the normal workday, that’s when I think some not so beneficial tradeoffs start to show their ugly faces.

Along with “office anywhere” technologies unfortunately follows “work anytime” expectations from your employer. Working on an important project? Keep working on it when you get home! The boss gets a bright idea on Sunday? She immediately emails you and would like to know your thoughts!

What about the impact of mobile devices and Facebook on our social lives? Certainly this has been a huge improvement, right?

Not so fast. Let’s explore this a bit, in regards to the fostering and development of meaningful relationships, and the impact on our ability to be focused and peaceful.

Meaningful Relationships

Certainly mobile devices help to keep us in easy contact with others via text messaging and Facebook. Aside from the fact that this has created some unbelievably dangerous and scary drivers who daily threaten our lives (!), how has this affected our relationships?

Texting is obviously a very useful way of communicating in certain situations. If you are late in meeting someone, or want to tell your buddy to join you at the bar, it’s simple and fast. However, incessant texting when you are at work, at a restaurant with friends, or virtually anywhere else where you are interacting with other people, is a waste of time and an unnecessary distraction. You are better off communicating with and relating to the people who are physically there in front of you—it will be much more fulfilling. As an example, when I am at the gym, I have a lot of fun talking to the other guys about sports, and I feel sort of sorry for the fella with his head buried in his phone, who is either texting or on “the Book.”

I also admit that Facebook is an excellent way to stay in touch with people on the periphery of your life, like extended family, former co-workers, and friends of friends. It has revolutionized our ability to stay in touch with a huge circle of acquaintances in our lives. But the key word here is acquaintances.

Similar to texting, Facebooking takes us away from being present with the people who are right there in front of us, which I think makes for less overall meaning in our relationships, not more. Some Facebooking is fine to keep in touch with a wide range of family and friends, but too much time spent on it is useless, distracting, and just a bad habit. Also, much of what is posted on the Book is pretty lame—some of it is funny, but most is a waste of your time.

Focus and Peacefulness

When I am at the hospital volunteering, or at the gym, or at a party, I want to be fully there. This requires, then, not being tethered to my phone or tablet. By ignoring my devices, I have found that I am happier and more content, since I am not multitasking and having my attention continually diverted.

And what about the simple joy of peacefulness? How can you have any measure of peace if you are constantly being alerted by a new text or Facebook post, or you feel a slave to your devices and “out of control” when they are not in easy reach?

In sum, I’ll admit it is highly unlikely that I have convinced any of you to spend less time on your phone or tablet, partly because the habit has become so ingrained and the allure of instant feedback and “rewards” is so powerful. But maybe I have at least given you some pause. Every now and then you might decide that talking to your wife or one of your kids is more beneficial than sharing yet one more cat video on Facebook in an attempt to generate likes!

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (2)

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  1. Bernard Mcloughlin says:

    For all the upside, this technology has everyone working 24/7 while destroying personal interactions
    The price we pay !!

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