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How technology is reinventing the way we connect

We've all heard the headlines – our excessive technology consumption is damaging our ability to communicate face to face, making us lazy, stopping us talking to each other – and more of the like.

But is this really the case? What about all of the ways technology gets us talking? In the past, the only way to communicate with someone in a different country would have been to send a letter that took months to arrive; we can now get in touch with them at the press of a button.

Technology has also become increasingly important when it comes to reconnecting with people we've lost touch with or tracking down missing people. From online copies of the electoral registers, to simply posting a message on social media- reconnecting has never been easier.

We consider the ways in which communication can be aided by technology.

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Can Technology Use Actually Benefit Our Communication Skills?

Generational panic about new technologies is nothing new - in the 1930's parents were concerned about the radio, in the 80's it was the Sony Walkman and today it’s social media and texting.

However there is a growing body of research to suggest that modern fears about technology harming communication skills, particularly in children, are unfounded.

Research by Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Centre shows the children who text the most, are also the most likely to spend time with their friends in person. This suggests that different forms of communication don't replace but enhance one another.

In fact, the online world is argued to have numerous benefits for our social skills. With the ability to self-publish anywhere and at any time, children are thinking more carefully about how they want to communicate their ideas to others. Many critics believe that this sense of an 'authentic audience,' actually pushes children to work harder and come up with new communicative forms.

Technology Helping Us to Reconnect with Each Other

Our ability to reconnect with each other has also been greatly aided by technology. In the past, if you lost touch with a friend or family member and had no acquaintances in common, the chances were, without a great deal of luck, you wouldn't see them again.

However with so many of us now online, tracking down an old friend from school can be as simple as searching for their name on Facebook or Twitter. Think about it, how many people would you have completely lost track of without social media?

If social media is a dead end, online electoral roll access and telephone directories mean that with just a few basic details about someone, you can find up to date information such as their address and telephone number.

Technology in the Search for Missing People

In recent years, technology has also transformed the way we communicate when we search for missing people. Whereas in the past authorities relied on news reports, flyers or the 'faces on milk cartons' movement, social media can now get the message out there faster than ever before.

You only have to go as far back as 1984 to reach a time when circulating images of missing children was woefully slow. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, has commented that at that time 'days could pass before a child's photo was disseminated.'

However digital media including Facebook messages, electronic billboards and Amber Alerts can now have the information out in the public domain, almost instantaneously.

With 'time being the enemy' in the vast majority of missing persons cases, the ultra-fast transmission of information that today's technology allows can make all the difference.

Technology has had a bad press when it comes to the ways we communicate. However it seems that in a large majority of cases its beneficial effects have been overlooked.

Not only can the self-publishing nature of the internet arguably enhance children's communication skills, but social media, online electoral registers and phone directories have dramatically transformed the way we reconnect with others.

With so many positives in favour of technology can we really dismiss it as negative for communication?

What do you think about technology and communication? Does it help us to keep in touch or keep us apart?