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Negative Effects of Technology on Society
The more advanced technology becomes, the more it seems to have control over our lives. According to Lee Siegel, "we shop, work, play, love, search for information, seek to communicate with each other and sometimes with the world online. We spend more time online than ever before. Yet people are not arguing about this startling new condition." I believe that people have too readily embraced technology, seeking only the benefits, and ignoring the many downfalls.
"It does not matter if your home is a noisy urban walk-up or a quaint cottage on a secluded bluff. If you have a screen and can pick up a signal, your mind is still in the same placeless place"(Siegel, 64). This "placeless place" that Siegel talks about is the zone that your mind enters when you stare at a screen too long, and it feels like your mind stops “Thinking.”
Recent developments in technology such as the internet also led to a decline in “normal” social behaviors. “The old-fashioned café provided a way to both share and abandon solitude, but sitting in your screen world is a whole other story. You are socially and psychologically cut off from your fellow caffeine addicts” (Siegel, 16, 17). In ages past, you could walk around town for a whole day without seeing all the people you know. Now, everyone you know is within arm’s reach, taking that certain psychological feeling out of seeing people. You see them every second of every day, and hear nearly every single thought of theirs as soon as they think them.
Years ago, it was predicted by many that the future would be an amazing and surreal place, yet, no one really seems very shocked about the advances. You can see evidence everywhere. The news is a great example- you see or read an interesting story, think about it for a second, and then you brush it over your shoulder, without any critical thinking, or wondering how it will affect your life.
“The Internet has radically changed nearly every level of human experience in an incredibly short amount of time” (Siegel, 22). Two decades ago, you would have had to write a letter to communicate with others far away; if you missed an episode of your favorite show, you would have had to wait for reruns; and to read the news you would have to pick up a newspaper. These are but a few ways the internet has changed human experience.
Also with these advancements comes the fact that people are not always alone, even when physically isolated. “With connectedness approaching ubiquity, physical isolation no longer ensures total isolation” (Powers 64). In addition, Powers also writes that, “Paul Tillich once wrote that the word ‘loneliness’ exists to express the ‘pain of being alone, while ‘solitude’ expresses ‘the glory of being alone’.” What most people feel upon being disconnected is loneliness, or the pain; while if you are disconnected long enough you feel solitude, or the glory, of being alone.
On another different topic, it seems that nearly everything is being assimilated into technology- Google Earth documented the entire map of the Earth; taxes, email, chatting, shopping, and work can be done over the internet; you can read on your Kindle; you can make home-made movies on Windows Movie Maker; and hundreds of other such ways. “According to a new creed, technologists are turning ourselves, the planet, our species, everything, into computer peripherals attached to the great computing clouds. The news is no longer about us but about the big new computational product that is greater than us” (Vaidnyanathan, 45).
In nearly every commercial, ad, and promotional, people encourage others to buy the latest gadget, or upgrade to the latest new thing. “Our culture reminds us every day how useful these devices are, and exhorts us to take advantage of this by making sure we are as digitally connected as current technology allows” (Powers, 25). Is constant contact with the world really a good thing? If you are always in contact, there will be a decreasing amount of time to devote to yourself, and others will shape your opinions more and more. “Like the car, the internet has been made out to be a miracle of social and personal transformation, when it is really a marvel of convenience- and in the case of the internet, one that has caused a social and personal upheaval” (Siegel, 25).
“In 2008, just 16 percent of the world’s working population qualified as hyper-connected, but the study predicted that 40 percent of us would soon meet the criteria” (Powers, 32). The rate at which people are adapting their lives around technology is amazing, considering the early resistance to the concept. “Ultimately, it does not matter how many or how few different devices we use to connect. The question is whether the hyper-connected life is taking us where we want to go” (Powers, 32). A majority of people own and regularly use computers, but most never question them when it comes to crashes, replacements, viruses, etc. and when it comes time to replace them, they never question it. We do not have to replace paper every few years. Paper does not crash when you put too much on it. There are never stressful and time-wasting updates to paper. Why have we moved to computers, then?
“We live more in our heads than any society has at any time in history, and for some the only reality is the one inside their heads” (Siegel, 6). Our society is a very work-oriented place- we try to fill up our schedules to the brim in an attempt to get as much done as possible. It has never occurred to many people that doing that much work may have negative psychological effects, such as preventing them from pursuing hobbies and spending quality time with family. Technology has a very much similar effect. First, when you get a phone you check it occasionally, maybe under the dinner table. Soon you start checking it more often and out in the open, sometimes not hearing what people say and even missing whole conversations. It can even get worse than that in some situations.
“When we become habituated to the amazing technological achievements of recent years, we forget to be thrilled and amazed. We lose that great sense of wonder, of awe. We take brilliance for granted and so we ignore the human elements of fortitude, creativity, and intelligence” (Vaidnyanathan, 51-52). We have all heard it: people whining about when a computer fails to do something as promised. “It’s so slow.” “A Mac would be so much better.” “My computer ate it.” These are all examples. People seem to conk out when something small goes wrong. What we all forget sometimes is that how amazing these techs really are when used right. We are so lucky that we even have computers, laptops, tablets, and televisions in the first place. Everything had to fall in place just at the right times for all this to work out.
“The internet’s premium on popularity as the sole criterion of success gives the lie to its claims of ‘choice,’ ‘access,’ and increased opportunity for individual expression” (Siegel, 98). It has become incredibly easy with the rise of the internet to become popular just by making the biggest impression. Being the funniest, cruelest, the one with the saddest story are all similar ways of becoming an internet phenomenon. It is even reflected in popular culture, where being the fastest rapper or wearing the sexiest fashions all makes the headlines. These are all the same; they are shallow. You really do not have to work hard at being sexy, or rapping, or even having a sad story. This generation leans on technology to serve their pleasures, and claim to be successful, or at least act like it. According to Powers, being connected causes us to think more outward, about what is “happening,” rather than just around you in your immediate life. In addition, Siegal claims that online experience is either about satisfying your immediate desires, or the desires of others.
In conclusion, modern technologies can very well be a double-edged sword, from safety to connectedness. They do have their advantages, but as with many revolutionary inventions, they can radically change our lives, for better or worse.