“The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t even really notice it, so it’s part of everyday of life” Bill Gates
The above quote is very encouraging for the future of technology if this is the standard that creators such as Bill Gates are living up to. We are only at the beginning of the technological age and I believe that there are many great things to come. Already the announcements of future projects that are currently in development such as Google Glass are very exciting. Unfortunately, having technology blend into our everyday lives may not be a good thing for us as a society and could have many disastrous effects.
Constantly texting and chatting online has greatly impacted on the way that we communicate with each other. Chatting via technology is obviously very different from talking face-to-face. There is completely different etiquette online and often there is no etiquette at all. Real life conversation can be a minefield for those who aren’t used to it. The awkward silences, having to come back with a quick response, interpreting non-verbal communication, which can account for 40% of communication, and deciphering people’s emotions, can be next to impossible for people who spend all their time talking online, to learn the unwritten rules of face-to-face conversation. Technology is also making us disconnected from the rest of society. We often resort to texting or fiddling on our phones rather than talking to other people and listening to our iPods as a way of warding people off. This can have a negative impact on our social skills and how we deal with people on a day-to-day basis.
Texting and the Internet are having a profound effect on how we use the English language. Firstly, grammar and punctuation are not as important when typing or texting. It is all about how fast you can get your message across so if that means sacrificing a few commas or other punctuation marks so be it. This is all well and good when confined to the virtual walls of the World Wide Web but it is when these walls get blurred with the real world that the problem arises. Not being able to spell and having a disregard for punctuation is a problem for schoolchildren but is also a problem in the work place. Not being able to write a simple note to another employee is not something that an employer wants. Text speak is also changing the English language as we know it. It shortens words that are too long, leaves out letters for our convenience and also makes new words completely. It was recently reported that ‘selfie’ and ‘twerk’ are soon to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary. These are just two examples of the many words that the Internet has given us, there are so many others such as ‘LOL’ and ‘LMFAO’ that are used on a daily basis. How long before these are also added to the dictionary?
Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society and are being exposed to an overwhelming amount of technology. Studies have shown that 30% of parents allowed their children access to the Internet without restrictions or without supervision. Without any supervision children can view all sorts of unsuitable websites such as pornography, eating disorder websites, self-harm websites and violent videos and video games. Being exposed to this type of material can make children desensitised and make them lack empathy. Violence can be seen in all forms of modern media, from the news on television to Youtube and social media sites. Seeing violence on a daily basis can make children more accustomed to it making them think it is the social norm, leading to more and more violence. This can already be seen in the increase of violent attacks in America, the most notable being the Colorado cinema shooting in 2012 where 12 people lost their lives at a screening of the film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Other external factors are probably at play here as well but there is no denying that the violence in video games is something that cannot be overlooked in regards to these violent outbursts that are on the rise.
Cyberbullying is becoming more and more of a problem in the last few years. Children that were previously only being bullied in school could return home and feel safe in the knowledge that their tormentors were far away but the omnipresence of Facebook and other social media sites have changed all of this. Children are no longer safe in their own homes as now their bullies can invade their home with nasty online messages and also text messages. This can have a devastating effect on young teenagers who do not see a way out and can have tragic consequences. We have seen many stories of this in the news over the past few years, the most memorable for me was the case of Phoebe Prince, an Irish teenager in America who was driven to suicide by her cruel tormentors, who were thankfully brought to justice in 2011. Many schools have had to change their anti-bullying policies to include technology in an effort to combat bullying but once the children leave school they are powerless to what children do online.
Constant use of technology can have a devastating effect on our health. Obesity is a growing problem that is not being helped by the Internet and growing popularity of video games. Rather than going outside and exercising, many people are choosing to stay indoors and vegetate on the Internet or playing video games, often overeating. This coupled with a lack of human contact can often lead to depression. Another problem that constantly sitting at a computer can create is back problems. Constantly looking down at screens of mobiles and laptops can over time make the neck lose its natural curve, not only that but also chronic back problems in later life. Constantly looking at screens all day can cause insomnia. The light from screens can stop the release of melatonin, the sleep chemical. It can also contribute to the deterioration of our eyesight. The Internet has reduced our attention spans from 12 minutes to a mere 5 minutes. This can have serious consequences for schoolchildren when they find it difficult to read a book or focus in class.
Obviously technology isn’t all bad. It makes our lives easier, writing essays and school assignments is a considerably easier task, all the information I need is there at a click of a button, we can find out about things happening on the other side of the world almost as they happen, and we can talk to friends and relatives living in far off places with ease but what price are we paying for these advantages? Is it our health, the minds of our children or society as we know it, or a terrifying concoction of all three? It is impossible to tell the true effect that technology is having on us right now but the best thing that we can do is to use it in moderation. Try leaving your phone at home every once in a while or maybe turning of the modem for an hour or two. Who knows? You might be better off.
What is your stance on the issue?