For years now, there has been a huge amount of criticism on how the internet and all that time spent online is interfering with the socialization of our youth. Parents fear that their children are going to be unable to sustain any kind of authentic relationships because most of their conversations outside of school happen in cyberspace. While this may be true to some extent, there is something to say for the life skills we can learn online due to the availability of an infinite body of literature and resource materials.
No, it is not good to stay focused in the digital realm for long periods. However, if your child begins seeing information on all the social injustices being perpetrated in our society, real change can be effected within their generation. Here is some of what technology can do to promote social awareness in a world that seems to be increasingly lacking vision.
1. The Formative Years
Have you ever noticed the social messages being sent on children’s television shows of late? Many focus on social skills that lead to social awareness in upper levels. Those formative years provide a foundation for all that comes after, and not all is academic. Much of what they learn as children is not finite information but rather a way to teach social skills to build upon in a fun way.
Children’s programs talk about sharing and caring along with a long list of acceptable behaviors they should be discovering. In this case, the technology of television offers the very beginning of social awareness that will carry over and be further developed in other technologies. It is the very beginning of how technology can actually advance social awareness rather than detract from it.
2. The Intervening Years
Something happened to the focus of education during the years between early education and college. While the technology affecting children in the formative years was used partly as precursors to education, most of the technology was dedicated to teaching social awareness. The basics of social awareness all began with those early years and the lessons they taught through the technology of television. The theme of many children’s programs was developed around sharing and caring and being friends with those who seemed to have none.
The technology of videos began teaching social awareness that somehow was interrupted in later years. While some schools did teach social skills and lessons in social awareness, those things were often omitted in an effort to spend more time with academics. Our national ratings on a world scale had been slipping and so it became important to focus on programs like STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). While this is all well and good because it provides the groundwork for the technology needed to promote social awareness, the social awareness factor was placed on the back burner.
Much of the technology in use today offers amazing opportunities in education, but yet again, that human element is often missing. Few schools were allowed to teach social skills because many were rooted in Judeo-Christian culture. On one hand, this is good and as it should be because there are other cultures also present in our society. Should these be left on the fringes because they are not among the majority of the population?
On the other hand, many of those cultures lack what is necessary for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace once our youth are out there in the job market. Some of the more radical Islamic factions, for example, don’t treat women or ‘infidels’ with the same level of respect they give to males within their culture.
3. College and Graduate Years
Once a ‘child’ reaches an age to attend university, perhaps going forward to grad school, they have all but lost a sense of how technology can impact social awareness. They know how to gather big data and undergo a basic level of data analysis, but they seem to have lost focus on what is missing in today’s world.
It would seem that all the geopolitical issues making the news should lead them to a greater understanding of the underlying causes for social unrest. Unfortunately, somehow those intervening years left a void in teaching the concepts inherent in social awareness. A great amount of effort was spent on the technology rather than in the direction in which that technology could move. Now it will almost certainly take college and graduate-level courses to awaken some inner sense of social responsibility necessary for businesses to succeed in today’s world.
4. Let’s Talk About Human Rights and Social Injustices
If you are wondering what all the above has to do with the role technology plays in social awareness, it only takes looking at current directions within company culture and what consumers want from brands they deal with. One thing to consider here is that people manufacture and sell those consumer goods. Technology enables engineers and developers to design those products, but they are made by humans for humans. (Let’s set aside AI and machine learning for the moment.)
At this point, you are probably wondering how all this information on technology and social awareness led to corporate America. This is where the greatest line of division exists in our culture today. The point being made is that few people are financially independent and so the workforce is comprised almost exclusively of workers who rely on that paycheck to feed, clothe and house their families.
If you are a minority who is unable to land a job even if you are more credentialed than the applicant before you, it’s a pretty good guess that bigotry and discrimination were a part of the hiring decision. While there are laws that were written to prevent discrimination, it often happens on a subconscious level, and here is where technology can play a huge role in social awareness.
5. Too Little, Too Late?
Much is written on anti-discrimination efforts in the workplace but the technology that impacts social awareness in the world could have been a mitigating factor preventing discrimination in the first place. It helps to understand technology as it relates to forging a bond between people of different races, creeds, and genders. Has there been too little, too late to affect such a change?
Bear in mind that many of the ways in which we view others different from ourselves are based on age-old traditions and outlooks in our respective cultures. At one time this made perfectly good sense because interpersonal communication was just that – two people talking to each other face to face. There were no personal PCs in previous generations and certainly no mobile devices.
It is only within the past few decades that socialization occurred in the digital realm and sadly, there seemed to be a marked dissection between social awareness in our home lives and that which impacted us in our places of employment. Suffice it to say, now that we do most of our interpersonal interactions in the digital realm, shouldn’t this technology be a starting point for greater social awareness?
6. Technology to Affect Social Change
If you are looking for examples of technology that would be most beneficial to social change, you can stop right there. Wouldn’t this bring to mind all the social channels available to us today? Most of you reading this probably have one or more of the following social media accounts. The most popular are:
These are not listed in any specific order of popularity, but you can bet they will be within the top ten year after year after year. This is how we communicate and stay in touch with family and friends all over the globe. Social media is also a way in which we meet new, and interesting people. They might be friends of friends or people we ‘meet’ in groups we belong to with common interests.
If ever there was a platform to affect social change it would be social media.
7. Leading the Way Forward
For just a moment, think about all the issues within just the past few years that have divided us as a people. From the George Floyd murder in the early days of the pandemic to the pandemic itself, we have often drawn a line in the sand, daring those with opposing views to step over it. Even our former president used Twitter to spout hate rhetoric, which just tended to add fuel to an already smoldering fire. If social media can be used to divide us, why can’t we use it to affect real change and a better relationship with those who differ from us?
While the internet and social media can be the biggest ways to promote social values, there are other technologies as well. In fact, some of them don’t even involve communications but rather apps and devices that lead to a better quality of life. For example, there are anti-discrimination laws on the books that are intended to protect the disabled.
Many hi-tech devices have been developed to give them such things as greater mobility. A techie could choose to invent anything whatsoever, but to work long and hard to make devices that better the quality of life for a disabled person speaks volumes of their level of social awareness.
8. Isn’t It Time to Stop the Bus?
Have you thought about how technology can be a cause for social unrest in the same manner in which it can lead to a greater amount of social awareness? Perhaps it’s time to scream, “Stop the bus and let me off!” As a consumer, you probably only deal with companies that have a social conscience. Most of today’s consumers want a relationship with brands they deal with. They want to know that those brands have a social conscience and work within a sustainable environment.
Is there any reason why we can’t take a new route to social awareness on an interpersonal level? Do we need to fall prey to the divisiveness of previous generations when we have the technology to help us better relate to, and embrace our differences? Being different doesn’t always equate to being bad, so why not use this technology to begin learning about what we have always considered to be cultural differences when those differences may be in expression only.
9. A Word to Those in Positions of Leadership
When it comes to DEI, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace, perhaps it’s time to get a better understanding of just what that means for your company or organization. If you don’t have a background in programs that foster DEI, then there are college-level courses that are based on those principles. Leadership means being able to communicate well with all kinds of ethnicities and personalities, so a bit of background in DEI can go a very long way in helping to grow a socially aware company culture.
Not only will it help you deal well with your staff, but it can help with better customer relationships as well. All of this can lead to massive business growth and all possible with a better understanding of the principles and practice of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion. Lessons learned for your business endeavors can also carry through to personal relationships.
10. Your Key Takeaway
The most important point to be gained from all this is that we are living in a global society. Cross-country borders are sometimes all but non-existent and the people we live and work with probably come from a large cross-sampling of backgrounds. You can embrace technology to help you understand how to create a company culture built around inclusion rather than segregation. From social media to chat apps to periodic emails, make use of technology to keep the lines of communication open. In this way, you will be promoting social awareness on all levels. If you are reachable, that may be all it takes, and if it’s technology that makes you available, embrace it as a new best friend.
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