Renown Norwegian historian Christian Lous Lange once said, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.” Nobody can deny the fact that technology dominates today’s society as it is found everywhere, from private homes to public spaces. Moreover, people use technology in everyday activities, from typing up an English paper to taking a picture with their camera for a memorable moment. However, technology has been so assimilated into the society that people cannot live without it. They claim that technology is a necessary part of their lives but fail to realize that technology does more harm than good. Online, people may have thousands of likes and “friends,” who cannot laugh or cry with them in times of need. Also, with all the instant gratification technology provides, people become too reliant and let the technology slowly seep away their ability to think critically. Declining health and blurred lines between privacy and publicity are some of the negative effects of technology. However, the harm technology brings is not only present in real life, but also in the arts such as literature. As exemplified in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and contemporary research, technology brings more harm than good as it distracts people, erodes one’s mental health, and invades one’s deepest secrets.
Technology distracts people because it weakens relationships and critical thinking. As people become more engaged with their technologies, they struggle to forge strong and healthy interpersonal relationships. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag tells Granger: “I don’t feel much of anything… even if… [Mildred] dies, …I don’t think I’ll feel sad” (Bradbury 148). Throughout his marriage, Montag fails to communicate with his wife Mildred on a deeper level. Mildred’s parlor walls intrude on their marriage by creating a barrier that prevents communication and understanding between these two characters. The walls, by taking away Mildred’s chance to be with her real family, destroy any hope for a strong and blooming marriage. The extent of the damage technology has on social life can be seen with today’s academics, those considered to be society’s intellectuals. Milken Institute fellow, Dr. Anusuya Chatterjee notes that “when she is checking her email, ...she responds with a distracted ‘uh-huh’ [to her son]” (Cook). The disconnect Montag feels with Mildred is the same disconnect Dr. Chatterjee shares with her son. People become so immersed in their digital gadgets that they ignore their surroundings. By minimizing their interactions with others, people neglect to put in the necessary time and in-person communication in building relationships. Technology distracts people from critical thinking as they dedicate much of their time, if not all, to technology. Montag realizes that “the walls were always talking to Mildred… What was it all about? Mildred couldn’t say. Who was mad at whom? Mildred didn’t quite know” (Bradbury 42). Walls are always talking to Mildred, not giving her the time or energy for self-reflection. Therefore, Mildred does not know what is going on with her digital “family” despite hearing her “family” conversations and witnessing their actions. This lack of processing information demonstrates her cognitive inability, what Michael Bugeja, the director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University, blames as “the Google syndrome". Bugeja claims that “technology distraction level is accelerating to the point where… [people] increasingly suffer” (Greengard). The Google syndrome is an analogy of Mildred’s lack of critical thought. Whenever Google spits out an answer, people automatically and unconsciously believe the Internet’s alleged claims. This addictive process brainwashes people, limiting their relationships and their ability to think independently and critically.
Furthermore, this over-reliance on technology brings damaging consequences to one’s mental health. Technology slowly eats away at a person’s happiness, ultimately destroying and replacing it with depression. Montag finds Mildred on the bed with “only the singing of the thimble-wasps in her… ears, and... [t]he small crystal bottle of sleeping tablets… lay uncapped and empty” (Bradbury 11). Mildred, a devoted technology addict, is broken beyond repair. She has become depressed due to the absence of human contact in her life. The parlor walls and the seashells eat away at her happiness and trap her inside their digital clutches. However, even as she is on the verge of death, she cannot let go of the technology, the very thing that makes her unhappy. A study done by Stanford University reveals that there is a correlation between the time spent with technology and a person’s level of happiness: “those who say they spend considerable amounts of time using multimedia … are less happy and less socially comfortable than peers who say they spend less time on screens” (Richtel). Those who use social media and play video games suffer more from anxiety and depression. Technology just deceives people like Mildred into believing that they are content, even though they are slowly falling into depression inside. Violence stems from the excessive use of technology as well, since technology influences people to be more violent and aggressive. Clarisse, recalling what it was like before technology dominated their society, voices her concern about this rampant violence in their high-tech society: “I’m afraid of children my age. They kill each other… Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone” (Bradbury 27). Clarisse’s peers murder each other without a second thought, acting as if murder is an everyday routine. With the dominance of technology, teenagers interact less and less with others, losing the ability to empathize. They are so desensitized to murder that they kill as their twisted form of entertainment. Technology, by replacing teenagers’ conscience with apathy, fosters violence that leads to deaths of many innocent lives. A study by the American Psychology Association states that there is a “consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior ... and decreases in ... empathy and sensitivity to aggression” (Kelly). Technology, in the form of video games, promote brutality and has the power to invoke anger and other dangerous emotions within its users. Therefore, technology has become a danger to both those who use it and those who are the recipients of these negative emotions. Therefore, by hurting one’s mental health, technology is a danger to all.
Technology blurs the line between privacy and publicity, causing insecurity and cyberstalking. Advanced surveillance technology used by many governments kindles a sense of insecurity among people. During the night, Montag looks outside of his window, where “a shadow moved... [T]here was something else in the silence that he heard. It was like a breath exhaled upon the window… The Hound, he thought… It’s out there now” (Bradbury 45). Even in his own house, Montag can never be himself, as the Hound is always watching him. Home is supposed to be a place where a person can relax, find comfort, and have some privacy. But with the Hound always watching and monitoring Montag, he has to be always alert. Therefore, having privacy is out of the question, since he knows the Hound is watching his every move, including him stealing and reading books. People in real life feel insecure as well, as “the technical capabilities to collect, store and search large quantities of data concerning telephone conversations, internet searches, and electronic payment are now… routinely used by government agencies” (Hoven, Van den, Blaauw, et.al). The way the government utilizes technology brings great unease to the people. The technology intrudes on people, often turning things over and ruining lives. Moreover, privacy issues occur in technology as it facilitates cyberstalking. Granger tells Montag: “Don’t think the police don’t know the habits of queer ducks like that, men who walk mornings for the hell of it… [They] have had him charted for months, years” (Bradbury 141). People are not aware of the fact that their government is watching them, intruding on their privacy. The fact that the government charts people for years indicates that they are watching citizens’ every move, including habits that they themselves might not know. In real life, stalkers can access to someone else’s digital lives and files with great ease. They can track their victims, often posting “threatening or personal information about the victim… including the victim's full name and address” (Stalking Resource Center). Technology endangers people as it reveals intimate details about their personal lives to whoever wishes to view the information and use it to their advantage. Be it in Fahrenheit 451 or today’s society, everyone is vulnerable and is exposed to danger due to the abuse of technology by hackers and stalkers. Technology is dangerous as it instills a sense of insecurity while also taking away people’s sacred privacy.
The negative effects of technology in Fahrenheit 451 are reflected in today’s society, further indicating that technology is indeed hurting people. Relationships crumble due to a lack of human interactions. Mental health deteriorates. And privacy is no more. People increasingly become unhappy and depressed as they are meant to socialize but do not due to the technology. Moreover, people increasingly trust less and become more suspicious day by day since they do not know who might be watching and monitoring them. Technology might provide brief happiness and comfort, but it is only consuming the people into oblivion. In the long run, it slowly destroys our relationships, happiness, and privacy. The harms of technology will always outweigh the benefits for as long as technology dominates today’s society and becomes people’s master instead of a tool for people to utilize and control for their use.