Why Society is Failing: An Analysis of Technology, Our Over-Reliance on it, and its Effects.
By Bronson Fra
In a society where the average day-to-day is heavily reliant on technology, it’s no wonder we tend to see it as our saving grace. The malleability of technology has allowed it to take over all the small and trivial tasks we would have had to do throughout the day, instilling complacency every time we rely on it. We look towards technology for all our needs. We turn to it for the solutions to our questions, to fulfill our entertainment fix, and even need it so that we can interact with other human beings. Technology is a double-edged sword; on one side we have the limitless potential it has to change the world we live in, and on the other we have the detrimental effects exhibited by over-reliance. Modern technology addiction is degrading our standard of life, causing us to sacrifice our sociability and health for ease and entertainment.
Ever since the start of the fourth industrial revolution (involves 21st century technology and social patterns) sociability has been on the decline. To put it nicely, technology is “reinventing” the way we socialize. This idea is stressed in The Empathy Diaries, a book written by Sherry Turkle, an Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology. Turkle tackled this topic and observed it firsthand through the time she has spent observing the trends and behaviors of middle school students at Holbrooke Middle school. Turkle was contacted by the head of the school; the issue being that “Students don’t seem to be making friendships as before. They make acquaintances, but their connections seem superficial.” (Turkle). The students had exhibited very little to no empathy towards each other, and not because of ill intent or malicious motives, but simply because they all grew up in this age of technology.
Technology does not only change the way we socialize because of the outreach and ease associated with it, but the way it manipulates the nature of conversation. In the words of Turkle, “computers offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then, as the programs got really good, the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy.” (Turkle). Basically, we are able to converse on our own terms. Texting is a direct exhibit of this effect, as we don’t have to respond instantly, but when we feel like it. You are able to interact without witnessing or worrying about the emotions displayed in face-to-face conversation, and without having to respond to the way someone else is feeling directly. The students at Holbrooke were found to have lost the majority of their social awareness and skills, with them being unable to make face-to-face conversations, and being unable to address the emotions of their peers. This is one of the more forgiving problems that comes with technology addiction.
The less forgiving complications that come with a technology addiction are numerous, with these complications varying from sleep deprivation to obesity and the cardio-pulmonary problems that come with it. These problems are frequently found in adolescents who spend excessive hours online and on gaming systems. An analysis of 10–17-year-old adolescents from two different research facilities found that “possible information systems use lifestyle-health links, which behooves researchers and practitioners to pay closer attention to possible adverse health outcomes of technology-related addictions. Interventions that target problematic video-gaming and sleep should be devised as a possible means for improving adolescents’ long-term cardio-metabolic health.” (Turel, Health Outcomes of Information System Use Lifestyles among Adolescents: Videogame Addiction, Sleep Curtailment and Cardio-Metabolic Deficiencies). Essentially, the findings of this study suggest that researchers and practitioners should be wearier of the role technology plays in the development of these problems, and that intervention programs should start being planned.
I’ve witnessed the ways that technology can alter lives all throughout mine. As long as I can remember, there were always rooms in my house full of high-tech gadgets; they never failed to astound me. My father owns an IT Management business and is a fanatic of computers, so it’s natural for me to have grown up around technology. While this seems like something that would inspire wonder and curiosity in a child, and it did for a while, it also forced me to come to terms with the power technology held over our lives. Actually, it was more of a rude awakening than a coming to terms moment. You see, I stopped looking at technology with awe when I realized our reliance on it.
The way we utilize technology is entirely up to us. Unfortunately, we have allowed it to autonomise our lives and have given it a degree of control over our lives that we may never recover from.
My favorite definition of technology is as follows: “Technology is the product of humans interacting with knowledge to produce something new and useful” (Technology and Society, Gale Opposing Viewpoints Database). This seemed to be the driving factor as to technological advancements up until recent times. We created technology to enrich the life we are living in; there was a vision that seems to have been lost with time. Nowadays it seems as though we are just complacent. We have countless studies that have highlighted all the red flags posted along the road we’ve taken toward this age of technology, yet we choose to ignore them. We sit watching as we witness our social skills crumble, as we become even more glued to the screen in front of our face. Our standard of life is crumbling before our very eyes, and soon the damage dealt will be irreparable.
“Technology and Society.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2021. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/PC3010999342/OVIC?u=gale15691&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=6e36f4ae. Accessed 5 Apr. 2022.
Turel, Ofir, et al. “Health Outcomes of Information System Use Lifestyles among Adolescents: Videogame Addiction, Sleep Curtailment and Cardio-Metabolic Deficiencies.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 5, 5 May 2016. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A453418441/OVIC?u=gale15691&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=d1c5d945. Accessed 5 Apr. 2022.
Turkle, Sherry. The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir Penguin Press, 2021.