What my drive to work taught me about the Internet of tomorrow

It is not uncommon for my conversations with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to touch on the idea that technology might hamper our ability to connect with others.

I guess it is because I work in enterprise Information Technology (IT). Conversations tend to shift toward technology and a lot of people only see the consumer side of the industry – a side dominated by social media. It’s probably natural to wonder why everyone seems to be focused on a smartphone instead of physically interacting with the world around them. It’s like talking about the weather –a topic none of us will really disagree on.

“Yes, it is hot outside.” “Yes, two kids might stand next to each other and communicate via text message instead of actually talking. “

This may be an overblown fear. However, my commute to work brought the point home for me. Getting cut off in traffic is a daily occurrence for me. That safe distance between my car and the one in front of me is often violated by someone else.

I don’t get mad. Okay, I do get mad. I even invent new words to describe these people. Some of these words are pretty creative. None of these words can be repeated here.

My anger quickly fades, but my focus on the offender does not. I use it as an opportunity to brainstorm the many things that could have made cutting me off a reasonable move on the part of the offending driver. I take the high road. I try to stay positive.

For example, maybe they dropped a bowl of chili in their lap. I think we’d all have a hard time eating chili in the car. Maybe they swerved to avoid a unicorn. The options are limitless and you might as well have some fun with it.

I realized this morning that people are very different when behind the wheel; they’re generally much less polite.

A car is a mask. It gives you just enough anonymity for you to dispose of politeness in favor of speed and convenience. I think technology could be doing the same thing. Just look at the comments on many online news articles and blogs (not this one).  I can’t brainstorm positive thoughts about those people. Some of them are pretty sick.

However, I think I got it figured out. Our online personas are just enough of a mask to allow us to dispense with the niceties. The more anonymous we think we are, the less filtered we act.

I can’t prove this, but it sure feels right. Your car is a mask. Technology can be a mask. However, I might just disagree with someone the next time they say that technology is making us lose our ability to hold a conversation. I’ll instead brainstorm all the different ways that we use these new tools to make us better.

That’s when I shift the conversation to crazy online commenters. That’s a group we can all complain about.

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About the author


Andy Ivey is a Technology Solutions Delivery Manager at Celanese. Outside of the office, he rows competitively for the Dallas Rowing Club and is otherwise a very active father of twin boys.

There are 6 comments. Add yours.

  1. Margie Dolch says:

    I hope you write another blog to follow this one up. What are your thoughts on how we can connect better through technology?

  2. Whitney says:

    Totally agree. I always think that what some people say about social media today, our great, great, great grandparents probably said about the telephone or the telegraph–“But what about face-to-face conversations?!” Those are never going to go anywhere, instead we’re just editing down those for the people that we really, really, really like.

  3. Andy Ivey says:

    Thanks, Margie. You are always kind enough to comment on the blog posts with thoughtful questions. I appreciate that.

    Celanese IT has some great ideas for the company, but I am personally excited about a trend that I think we’ll see in the next few years. I believe that technology will free us up to have higher quality personal interactions than we do today.

    There’s an exciting new technology that doesn’t (yet) have a proven use in manufacturing. It is called micro-location awareness. We all carry around devices that are capable of pinpointing our location.

    Think about going to your local hardware store to find a unique item. An app on your phone could pinpoint your location, the location of the item, and guide you in real-time. When you get to the item, it could provide you with more information and even reviews from people that have purchased it before.

    Without that app, you might have stopped a store employee to ask where the item is, found another employee to answer basic questions, and then still not have any input from real customers that have used the actual product.

    The employees that were once occupied with questions about directions and basic product details could – thanks to the app and micro-location awareness – be free to provide deep technical help to customers that really need it.

    Technology, in this retail example, could free an employee to focus on really high value interactions with customers. It would also help other customers to get in and out of the store more quickly and easily.

    That’s one example of how technology could really improve our ability to connect by automating some human interactions to allow us to focus on more meaningful exchanges.


    • Margie Dolch says:

      Andy, great example and thanks for your kind words! Technology can help us prioritize our work and give us more time for value-added projects as long as users are willing and eager to proactively seek out information for themselves.

  4. Alejandro Robledo says:

    Good post; I guess nowadays the tools are being confusing with the main goal these were developed for. A good example is a soldier or an operator in our Plants, what if they spend the day reading the reports or maps instead taking a quick action based upon the information they receive? I like the approach of personnel in the production floor; they consult what they need in the computer and go to the field to take an action with shorter reaction time and more knowledge of what to do next, they never loose the link between a computer and reality.

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