Love or hate it we know it’s not going anywhere but what is it doing to us? 

Has there been a cost to behaviour and skills?

Has productivity peaked?

20 years ago, technology had a positive impact on our productivity.

Metcalfe’s Law hypothesized that the value of a network increases with the number of users squared – which meant a whole population with a fax machine was more productive than just a few people having one.

But there was always a dark side to Metcalfe’s Law – as the cost of communications decreased, the number of interactions increased, as does the time to process them.  The study by Bain & Co commented on the growth in messaging as an example. What used to be 5,000 calls a year to a secretary for an executive has become around 50,000 messages a year now via phone, email, and WhatsApp or IM.

A typical midlevel manager now devotes much of their working day to managing the messages and consequently, productivity is on a downward trajectory.  AI might look like it’s going to save time – but

Are we becoming stupid because of tech?

A quick question to Google ‘Has technology made us stupid?’ throws up thousands of articles telling us about cognitive function, attention, memory, and falling creativity.  We no longer remember phone numbers and our memories are fed through pictures we’ve taken rather than the lived experience.

According to UC professor and research co-author Anthony Chemero “Despite the headlines, there is no scientific evidence that shows that smartphones and digital technology harm our biological cognitive abilities,” 

Our brains are now fine-tuned to remember where to find information, not necessarily what that information was. Technology has allowed us to spend time on other things – Chemero adds: “You put all this technology together with a naked human brain and you get something that’s smarter…and the result is that we, supplemented by our technology, are actually capable of accomplishing much more complex tasks than we could with our un-supplemented biological abilities.”

While there may be other consequences to smart technology, “making us stupid is not one of them,” says Chemero.

Does pen-to-paper matter?

Angela Webb, a psychologist, and chair of the National Handwriting Association explained the act of writing activates certain areas of the brain stimulating cognition.  Learning to write helps coordination, rhythm, stamina, and posture and our children are at risk of physical problems if they haven’t learned to sit and write properly.

To date, schools continue to teach writing even if cursive lessons are dwindling.  Grammarly installed on computers might mean we can spend more time on the content and less time on the nitty-gritty of spelling – but luckily, for now at least, we are still teaching our children to spell – will we continue to give weight to those skills?

Where have the soft communication skills gone?

Technology has given confidence to some who find social interactions a challenge and it made working from home possible, but has it removed our ability to social chit-chat? 

Water cooler chat might seem banal and pointless, but those interactions are key to developing relationships and skills in communication.  Daily small interactions allow us to learn how to read a room and pivot what we say based on what we see and hear.

No one denies that online interactions are hard – it’s more challenging to keep attendees interested, to create energy, to develop connections, and ‘reading the room’ is particularly hard

But face to face allows us to develop some soft communication skills such as allowing the pause and keeping people’s attention. We might have developed the subtle skill of multitasking with online phone checking during meetings but it’s done nothing for our interpersonal relationships and communication skills.

Shouting the loudest?

The growth in tech has had a massive impact on Amplification.  Small companies can now have big voices. But do the young ‘tech generations’ know how to communicate with those who have different opinions from them?  These days if someone disagrees with you, you can block them and disregard their opinion, accuse them of trolling.  Before technology, we had to learn how to adapt to those who held different views but now we just shout louder on social media and disregard the different opinions.

Benefits v Downsides

Technology has brought with it all sorts of tremendous benefits but we need to keep our eyes open to the ‘dark side’ and do all we can to overcome the lost art of communication.

You’re not the only one struggling with communication at the moment.

If you need help developing your communication skills why not book a 1-2-1 session which might be just the support you need?  We can help you learn the skills that you might not be developing with office interactions. We work both online and in person.