I post this picture on Instagram and Facebook while at AcceleratED last week. The caption:
I don’t need an Apple Watch, I don’t need an Apple Watch…
The people who commented on my post fell into two camps: Those who felt the need to be funny (“Trump says ban Apple!! :-P”), and those who own Apple Watches. The latter group was adamant that I needed one. One of my friends on Facebook even posted a personal message online via his newest device – see image below.
I did go into the store to explore this technology more. The salesperson was originally from Wisconsin (of course – Apple knows my every move and plans accordingly). She showed me the different options, ranging in price from $350 – $500. I told her that I am not a watch wearer. “Neither was I.” She showed me how she uses her watch, which connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth. You have to have your smartphone on you for the Apple Watch to work. Certain apps that are downloaded on your iPhone can then be activated for the watch. For example, I am a heavy Evernote user for storing all kinds of content. The Apple Watch would allow me to dictate notes via voice. It also “buzzes” your wrist for texts, emails, and phone calls.
I thanked her for her time and went on my way sans an Apple Watch on my wrist.
I have previously written about how my Android smartphone (work) would eventually replace my iPhone (personal). The transition hasn’t happened yet. My iPhone 5S is still my go-to device when I am on the go. I will not wax poetically about all of the benefits of this device over its nearest competitor. If you own an iPhone, you know what I mean.
My worry stems from strapping myself with more devices than I would ever imagine. I still have two phones – why do I need one more device? An article in the New York Times by Sherry Turkle highlights the research that shows that as we become more tethered to technology, our abilities to emotionally connect with others decreases.
Across generations, technology is implicated in this assault on empathy. We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation — at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, in which we play with ideas and allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable.
When I spoke to Apple Watch owners in Portland, they found the opposite to be true. They felt they were less distracted. Tim Lauer, an elementary principal, observed that when he wears his Apple Watch, he is more accessible to others in addition to being less distracted. “I receive a text or an email, and I can respond to just that one communication. If I pull out my phone, I am also tempted to check Twitter, Instagram, and other social media tools.”
I would probably find the same results – less distracted, more accessible. So what level of access do I want to provide for others? What if I don’t want to be found? I also worry about committing too much to any one technology. For example, my Android smartphone has certain advantages over my iPhone, such as longer battery life and better cellular reception.
This “digital dilemma” will continue for some time. I believe it is healthy to constantly question all of these connections we create for ourselves. The relationships we have formed in person should be our priority. Sherry Turkle has come to similar conclusions.
But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.
Our connections with others can be enhanced with digital tools, but they should not replace them.