Our Dependency on Technology in Today’s Society

Defunct and abandoned by the sidewalk downtown, there is a payphone, which is obviously antiquated in this age of mobile phones. It sits there, and hasn’t been touched in ages. Left to wither away, it’s phone is no longer attached, which is either lost or stolen.

payphone

This is what technology once was, a mere tool, and in this case, a tool solely for communication. In the past 20 years, technology has morphed rapidly into something much more complicated than a simple tool; furthermore, it is now something we have an unhealthy co-dependence upon. Sadly, technology isn’t about science anymore; as a consequence, inventions altogether have lost their meanings. American astronomer and science communicator, Carl Sagan, has quoted “We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.” The more we get technical, the less we understand the most effective uses for science. This leads to another question: is this advance in technology making us happy, or the lather? Sure technology can provide entertainment that can cause short-term happiness, but the long-term effects of prolonged technology use can greatly cause unhappiness; it’s how we choose to use technology that determines how it’s overall going to affect us.

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The very problem with technology today is our over usage of it altogether. Our dependence upon technology is almost like it’s our greatest means for survival. In fact, Meena Hart Duerson cited in her 2012 NY Daily News article that “84 percent of people surveyed in a new TIME Mobility Poll said they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device in hand.” Why have we become so dependent on our devices? In this one little device, we have access to our whole world; from our e-mail, games, news, social networking sites, and the internet. We almost have no need for a regular computer anymore, which we couldn’t have said less than 5 years ago. Sure it’s extremely convenient, but at what cost? We are connecting, but at the same time disconnecting from reality. To put it in another way, British journalist, Andrew Brown has said, “The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.” Moreover, we are practically living in the virtual reality of a world stemming from our own creation. Andrew Sullivan states something similar in his essay, Society is Dead: We Have Retreated into the iWorld. He says,“Americans are beginning to narrow their lives…Technology has given us a universe entirely for ourselves”. We no longer have to expand our horizons to new things, because we now have the power to choose exactly what we want to look up, listen to, or read online. We can stick to our individual habits and tastes without any interruptions of change. A good example would be the radio versus the iPod. With the radio you either have to listen to the song that’s currently playing until another song comes on, or simply change the station; with an iPod you can manually choose the song of your choice and skip songs as you please. This, in return, arises another question: is today’s technology spoiling us? We barely have to think anymore, thanks to our smartphones; let alone, our addiction to these devices is a problem all of its own. Our relationship with our technological devices has even been compared similar to an eating disorder in Tara Parker-Pope’s NY Times article “An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness”. In her article, she recalls Dr. Kimberly Young’s research on the addictive nature of online technology. “Technology, like food, is an essential part of daily life, and those suffering from disordered online behavior cannot give it up entirely and instead have to learn moderation and controlled use.”Technology being used in moderation would seem like simple common sense, but with the fact that 84 percent of people can’t go a single day without their phones, the problem is far worse than we thought. Technology has gone far enough to where we can develop disorders from its use alone. We would have never imagined this back in a time where technology was used as a helpful tool, instead of a necessity. In a way, science fiction writers had the right idea when they would create stories of robots taking over the world. With robots resembling smartphones, could our ancestors of been able to tell the two apart?

What would our ancestors think of our  current technology?
What would our ancestors think of our current technology?

Take a look at technology today; in particular, is there any further depth to the inventions being conducted today? Are we using our products to their full potential? Do the products have any further meaning to their existence by themselves? We have definitely declined from Thomas Edison’s genius of the light bulb. Most products today consist of society’s pronounced laziness. American Politician, Mark Kennedy, quotes, “All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness”. We use technology as a way to make life as simple as it can possibly be; as a result, it has caused a common trend, pure laziness. We now have apps that make it accessible to order your fast food online, so you can have assess to your food more quickly. Wasn’t that the original purpose of the drive-thru?

The great decline of the human race.
The great decline of the human race.

And with our smartphones, we are beginning to no longer have the need for books, computers, movies, and even television; all because we get complete access to all these outlets on one device. It really makes you wonder what the future holds for us in a technological sense; specifically, since a lot of our current inventions are aimed toward the cyber world. According to a USA Today article by Josh Wolonick, over 300 apps are created daily.

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With these apps mainly being used as a source of entertainment, are we really putting our technology to good use? Almost every restaurant, company, or even talk show we see on commercials these days mentions “follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook”. How did the cyber world spread like a disease on our everyday life? What about other things we could put mass importance on: like pollution, political issues, or protecting endangered animals. According to The Telegraph, the lemur, a whole entire species may be completely extinct in 20 years. We have become so engulfed in our need to extend our personal technology that we are ignoring some serious issues. English writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley has quoted, “Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards”. Until we start using our technologies effectively, we will indeed be going backwards with societal progress. Is it going to have to take a wake-up call like extinction or global warming before we start going forward again?

How will technology effect the children of our future?
How will technology affect the children of our future?

When it comes to the cyber age, the younger generations are particularly affected. In Marjorie Connelly’s NY Times article, “More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Existence”, she says,“…almost 30 percent of those under 45 said the use of these devices made it harder to focus, while less than 10 percent of older users agreed”. It’s crazy to see how far technology has come in our lifetime, and a lot of it is fairly new, especially the advanced technologies we are so used to using today.Who would have thought it would have this much of an impact on us in such a short period of time. If it is affecting us this much, then how will it affect our children, or the next generation even? Cris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, and author; wrote in an article for Huffington Post about the effects a child can develop from overexposure to technology. She says that since early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, children having an overexposure to technology can be associated with attention deficit disorder, impairment to learning, cognitive delays, and tantrums. She also states that, “Technology use restricts movement, which can result in delayed development”. She mentions as well, a problem most of us probably haven’t even thought of yet. What happens when the parents are the ones attached to technology?

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According to Rowan, parent’s attachment to technology causes a detachment to their children; as a result, the children attach to technology themselves, which can result in addiction. Going back to the attention factor, technology has resulted in an extreme lack of focus by becoming a huge distraction in everyday life. According to Nancy Gibb’s Time article, “Your Life is Fully Mobile”, “In Time’s poll, 1 in 4 people check it[phone] every 30 minutes, 1 in 5 every 10 minutes”. With these facts, there’s no doubt our children will pick up on our technology dependence themselves.

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As a matter of fact, the way children are learning nowadays is using apps on tablets or cell phones. No wonder the effects technology has on toddlers is becoming such a hot button issue. There are even books you can purchase on raising your children in the age of technology; Dr. Jim Taylor, professor at University of San Francisco, wrote Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World. In his Psychology Today article, “How Technology Is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus”, he has stated, “With advances throughout history, the technology that is available determines how our brains develops”. He gets into an observance by technology writer Nicholas Carr, that when reading was introduced, it encouraged our brains to be imaginative. So, with that information, there is no telling how our future generations will learn to adapt to the technologies yet to come. When you think about it, we are merely products of our environment; no matter how you look at it, technology is the reason we are the way we are today. This is scary when you think about how destructive our current technology has become in the short time it’s been around.

How is the technologies of the future going to effect us if our current one's effect us this much?
How is the technologies of the future going to affect us if our current one’s affect us this much?

When it comes down to society’s overall dependence on technology, moderation is the most effective solution. Does this technology we are so attached to make us happy? With anything we have an unhealthy attachment to, unhappiness is likely present. Although technology can be a temporary source of happiness, we have seen evidence to how its long term use is creating unhappiness in our lives, but is it technology to blame? In Stephanie Marche’s article in The Atlantic, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”, she makes it perfectly clear, “We are doing it to ourselves…We make decisions about how we use our machines, not the other way around”. She is most certainly right. It isn’t technology itself that is making us unhappy, it is ourselves. Isaac Asimov, American science fiction author, states something to that nature in his book, Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and-Nature Quotations. He opines, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”. This is going to continue until we start putting technology to an effective use. Our children are the ones who are going to potentially suffer the most. They are our future; nevertheless, so we should put our devices down to give them our full attention now, and not when it’s too late. In Dr. Mark Williamson’s article, “Less Technology, More Happiness”, he has said, “So make it a habit to give the people you’re with priority over the gadget you’re holding…disconnect to connect”. We are almost missing out on the reality of real life being so attached to the cyber world. Are you going to want your children to remember you as someone who was constantly looking down at a phone in their hand? I didn’t think so.

Parents, put down your gadgets. Your children need you.
Parents, put down your gadgets. Your children need you.

After all, the advanced technology we currently have today will someday end up like the pay phone; provided that, new technology’s going to continually come along. Our smartphones will merely be a shell of how we once connected, or shall I say over connected. They will eventually end up in an outdated technology graveyard, in a box at a thrift shop. Just outside that thrift shop, will be the very spot the pay phone would have once stood; eventually, having a similar demise to the very technologies of our distant past.

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Sources:

Asimov, Isaac. Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and-Nature Quotations. London:Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1990. Print.

Connelly, Marjorie. “More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-in Existence.” Technology. NY Times. 6 June 2010. Web. 20 Mar 2015.

Duerson, Meena Hart. “We’re addicted to our phones: 84% worldwide say they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device in their hand” Living. NY Daily News. 16 Aug 2012. Web. 25 Mar 2015.

Gibb, Nancy. “Your Life is Fully Mobile.” Mobile Tech Special. Time. 16 Aug 2012. Web. 26 Mar 2015.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness.” Technology. New York Times. 16 June 2010. Web. 20 Mar 2015

Rowan, Cris.”10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.” The Blog. Huffington Post. 19 Feb 2015. Web. 20 Mar 2015.

Samuels, Henry. “Furry lemurs ‘could be wiped out within 20 years.” World News. The Telegraph. 19 Aug 2013. Web. 25 Mar 2015.

Sullivan, Andrew. “Society is Dead: We Have Retreated into the iWorld.” Ideas That Matter. Ed. Katie Hannah. New York: W.W Norton & Company. 2012. 316-319. Print.

Taylor, Dr. Jim. “How Technology Is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus.” The Power of Prime. Psychology Today. 4 Dec, 2012. Web. 20 Mar 2015

Taylor, Dr. Jim. Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World. Naperville:Sourcebooks. 2012. Print.

Williamson, Dr. Mark.  “Less Technology, More Happiness.” The Blog. Huffington Post. 23 Jan 2014. Web. 20 Mar 2015

Wolonick, Josh. “Where is the booming app market going?” Tech. USA Today. 7 Mar 2013. Web. 26 Mar 2015.

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