Thursday, 12 April 2012

Is Our Dependence on Technology Destructive?

I am one of the first people to admit that I love technology. But it occurred to me last night that maybe in some ways, technology can be much more harmful than it is helpful.
We’re all aware of the growth of social networking, and I think it’s a great tool for being able to connect with people, share new ideas and generally exchange different perspectives from around the globe. For anybody looking to pursue a writing career it’s become almost invaluable. But can our obsession with social networking be destructive? I own a smartphone which has constant internet access – as a result, I’m always checking my blogs and social networking sites. Sometimes I think that if I were to add up all the hours a week I spend on social networking, it would be truly shocking. So more often than not, I push this thought to the back of my mind. Perhaps it shouldn’t be ignored. We have to ask ourselves, when does moderation stop and obsession begin? When does it get to the point that being on social networking sites is actively preventing you from doing something productive?
I’m not trying to say social networking is evil, because I don’t believe it is. However, I do worry for the future. We as a society are already so obsessed with technology, and with the advances in technology increasing by the day, it might only get worse. I have no idea how many hours I spend on social networking, but I would put money on the fact that in ten years time, somebody my age will be spending far more hours on it than I. Which I think is scary.
Let’s look to the internet as a whole. It has no doubt been a revolutionary tool. I have no idea what I’d do without the internet – read more I guess? – because it’s become such an integral part of my life. I think a lot of other people would say the same. Despite this, studies have shown the more time we spend on the internet, the worse our concentration gets. When we’re spending hours looking at bite-sized pieces of information, it gets harder and harder to concentrate for longer periods of time.
I myself will admit I’ve been watching a film at home, or I’ve been in the middle of a book, and I find myself reaching for my phone. Not because I realised I had a super important message to send, or that I forgot to do something, but simply because the thought of checking my social networking sites, checking the news, is at the back of my mind. A film should be enough to entertain me for two hours, but I’m increasingly finding that sometimes, out of habit even, I’m reaching for my phone and checking all my updates.
This blog post was inspired last night. It was 2am, and I had woken up because I was too hot. I tried to get back to sleep for a while, but failing this, I eventually decided to check my phone and the internet for anything new. It was then that I realised how crazy that is. In the UK, there’s a show called Supersize vs. Superskinny, where an obese person and an underweight person, both adamantly trying to change their ways, exchange diets. In some episodes, the obese person has been known to get up in the middle of the night simply to give the underweight person their usual midnight snack. Usually, I sit watching this thinking how ridiculous it is that anybody would need to eat a snack in the middle of the night. But isn’t me checking my phone the same thing? It’s an obsession, it’s habit – it has ceased to appear ridiculous. The problem is that it is ridiculous.
I’m not the only person to notice this. I read an interesting book a few months ago on my Kindle, called Pharmacology by Christopher Herz. It takes place in 1993 in San Francisco as the internet revolution has begun to expand. The protagonist Sarah becomes involved in a pharmaceutical company in an attempt to expose their corrupted ways but in the end (SPOILERS!) Sarah realises it’s her that’s the experiment – the company is using Sarah to test her dependency on the internet, which they believe has led her and all the other workers to develop ADHD. It’s an incredibly critical take on the internet, but in some respects, I can’t help but feel that Herz has a point. We are already being damaged by the technology we created. This again could be said to go back to Farrell’s comment on my post about dystopia – technology is a major force in our society, and nobody knows how long it will take before it starts to control us. Arguably, it already is.
Again, I’m not looking to completely demonise the internet or social networking, because I truly believe both are incredibly positive things in society. Yet we still have to recognise the risks that come with the internet. The fact is, it can be destructive. It can prevent you doing things which may be important – look how the word procrastination has boomed since the invention of the internet. So it’s up to us to moderate our time on the internet. To remember our priorities, and not to use the internet to excess: we have to make sure it’s us controlling technology, and not technology controlling us. If Herz is to be believed, then it looks like we only have a small matter of time before it does . . .


  1. Technology and the internet is a crazy obsession that a lot of people don't realize they have. I know I'm a bit obsessed with it. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who put on a few kilos last year because of it... and it was only after starting to read a lot of stuff on the internet that we realized I needed glasses. So that's how it's been destructive to me. Other people forget how to socialize in real life. That's pretty depressing if you ask me. It's a great tool, but some people need to be given a health and safety pamphlet on how to use it!

    1. I think we're all a little obsessed with it to some degree. Being at the computer screen all the time has the same effect on me - I can tell when my sight is getting worse. I constantly have to pull the screen or the laptop forward, I can't read anything otherwise! I agree that socialising has become a major problem due to technology; some people just can't socialise without having some aspect of internet or technology involved, and I find that depressing too. Definitely! I think we underestimate the power of technology on our health and safety, but it can be dangerous - people just haven't realised fully yet.

  2. I am afraid of adding up my online hours and facing that number, for sure. Which in and of itself means I probably have a problem. I'm still trying to figure out a way to be "balanced".

    1. I know I am! Even if I did add up the number, I'm not sure I'd want to believe it myself. It takes a while to become balanced with time, and it has taken me a few years to realise what works for me; I suppose in some ways it becomes a never ending pursuit. Still, let's hope one day we all find that perfect balance. Thanks for commenting!