Technology is a double-edge sword. It can be benefiting, but it can also hurt us mentally, physically, and socially. With technology, we can talk to anyone, anywhere, we can shop from the comfort of our homes, we meet new people, and we can stay connected with friends and family. At times, this seems ideal, but we are becoming more isolated, self-absorbed, and lonely. We, as a society, are losing our ability to focus, think critically, and socially interact with each other.
We need to find better ways to engage our brains before we rewire a new demise.
A study by Microsoft found that the human attention span has dwindled down from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, a second less than a goldfishs purported attention span. The research proves the ability to focus is not only getting worse, but our social interactions are also taking a hit too (Hong).
There are benefits to technology that can increase socialization, however, the virtual world is leading us to social isolation.
Many people think that the internet and technological devices increase our social interactions, which they may. But technology also harms our interpersonal relationships. Technology is humans greatest creation. And it also is humans most dangerous creation.
Scientists say that we are losing our ability to focus. The technological devices are hijacking our attention spans. Their presence affects our cognitive performance. People are overwhelmed with so much information available through digital media, that our attention spans are becoming much smaller. These screens seem to be inescapable.
They are on our desktops, in our cars, on gas pumps, and in our living rooms. Americans, on average, touch their phones an astounding 2,617 times a day, according to market researcher Dscout (Winnick). As these distractions become normal, we start to crave them when they dont exist.
Our brains are constantly being stimulated by technology. Between smartphones, iPods, email, TV, DVRs, the internet, social media and more, our brains neurons are firing on all cylinders all day long. (Bhat) Our brains lose the ability to focus due to overstimulation and instant gratification becomes a must. Same concept in addiction. A single notification weakens the ability to focus on a task. We cant stay focused because we are jumping between tasks. Successful multitasking is a misconception for many. About 97.5% of the population cannot multitask, the other 2.5% have freakish abilities; scientists call them super taskers because they can actually do more than one thing at once (qtd.in Brueck).
Better concentration makes our lives easier and less stressful. Greater focus means more productive living. By reducing the technological distractions and becoming more disciplined, we can improve our mental health. It takes several weeks to form a habit, so it will take time and practice to break a habit. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can restore focus. When you feel like quitting, tell yourself, five more minutes. This will extend your focus and give your mind a chance to think of something else.
We have eliminated many physical activities and are watching our mental and physical health deteriorate, which is causing us to lose the ability to think critically. Now smartphones are making us dumber. We no longer remember phone numbers or addresses, it is affecting our ability to spell, and most people cannot read a map because of GPS on our phones. In one influential study, volunteers were asked to type newly-learned trivia facts into a computer. Those who were told the computer would remember the facts for them performed much worse on a later memory-recall test. The researchers dubbed it the Google Effect (2019).
The Google Effect is also referred to as digital amnesia. It means people will be less likely to remember information that they can access easily online. One piece of evidence shows that Google creates the illusion of accessibility. This means that answers are always within reach when they are not. Students Google for answers and think that they arrive at what they are looking for, not taking the time to evaluate the information, making sure that it is credible. When we Google for an answer, we get an answer because, likely, the question is terrible.
While it is possible to have an average IQ and navigate through life safely, having critical thinking skills is important in effective decision making and is important for real-life experiences. If our critical thinking skills are crippled by technology, all we have is our IQ. As the evidence correctly shows, IQs are declining from the increase in media exposure, poor quality of education, and poor nutrition associated with the fast-paced lifestyle that technology brings to us. IQs were on the rise in the 20th century due to lack of technology and better access to education. Selwyn Duke states, its logical to assume that the bizarre, unprecedented exposure to electronic devices may influence the physical development of the brain, an organ quite malleable in childhood. Studies have shown the significance of environment, after all, that it can influence even gene expression (2018). Exercising the brain is important and is necessary for intellectual health. There can be no question that by changing your environmental factors, you can change your critical thinking skills.
The human brain naturally gravitates towards doing things the easy way and what brings instant gratification. Our natural chemicals are affected by technology. Melatonin is influenced by the glow from screens, which affects our quantity and quality of sleep. Dopamine affects memory, mood, learning, concentration, sleep, and motor control. Dumps of dopamine keep us addicted to technology because we like the euphoria that it brings. Prolonged stimulation by high dopamine levels reduces serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for appetite, body temperature, sleep patterns, and hormonal activity. We cannot think critically if our mental wellbeing is being hacked.
Social interaction is being affected by technology. Have you ever looked around and noticed most people arent paying attention to their surroundings? We only half listen while our faces are glued to our little screens. We dont engage in constructive conversations, we are distracted from listening, and we are putting ourselves in danger by not paying attention to our surroundings. People went from going outdoors to hang out with peers to communicating through social media. Electronic communication has been made easier to use and most teens are less interested in communicating face-to-face with friends and family. The use of technology in front of elders and friends is disrespectful. Using your smartphone while conversing with a stranger at the doctors office is discourteous. Emily Drago states,
The majority of students use their cell phone sometimes when they are with family or friends (74%), and only 8% of students rarely use their phone in the presence of friends and family. No respondents indicated that they never use their cell phone or tablet when spending time with friends or family (2015).
Lack of human connection is making us colder and socially illiterate. The way we connect with people is changing and becoming dangerous. The misuse of technology reveals several risks, especially to those that are more vulnerable. We have a larger number of victims of privacy intrusion, identity theft, cyberbullying, sex crimes, pedestrians being hit by cars being driven by people looking at their phones.
Technology use has reduced the amount of time we spend interacting with each other. This use has had a negative impact on the quality and quantity of real social interactions. Albert Einstein quoted, I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interactions. The world will have a generation of idiots. Without a doubt, we are heading in that direction.
Technology can be convenient in our busy worlds. Its more comfortable, emotionally, socially, and literally less messy, hiding behind a one-way screen. It keeps us connected to those that are far away from us, almost instantly. Technology has helped people that are shy to make new friends while going off to college by opening a virtual world and making it easier to meet others. Technology has stopped us from saying damaging, hurtful words to others. Rory Jones interviewed Dr. Monica Bulgar of the Oxford Internet Institute expressed that technology is Far from dumbing down the way we communicate, technology had made us smarter . Ive sat in meetings where people have said things they shouldnt have. Whereas email gave more time for considered reflection: You can do the count to ten rule and think a bit before you respond. (qtd.in 2011). There can be no question that technology has helped all of us at some point. It has made some things easier or convenient, it has helped a friend with a disability, it may have even saved a life.
Technology can cause problems, but only if you let it control your life. Social skills will decrease when there is a lack of interpersonal interaction. If you dont interact with people, you will become isolated. Isolation can lead to many other physical and mental illnesses. One piece of evidence shows an up and coming mental diagnosis, not yet included in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, is nomophobia. The term an abbreviation for no-mobile-phone-phobia, was coined during a 2008 study by the UK Post Office who commissioned YouGov, a UK-based organization, to evaluate anxieties suffered by mobile phone users (qtd.in Mick). Nomophobia occurs when a person experiences anxiety from fear of not having access to their technological device. A person may suffer symptoms such as, agitation, perspiration, low self-esteem, rejection, and loneliness, along with several other symptoms. Treatments are limited due to the new concept of the disorder.
Communication is important to a successful life. We should find ways to speak with each other rather than avoiding one another. The next time you decide to send a message to someone, call them instead. Make plans to meet face-to-face. Brush up on your social skills. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. That is what makes us grow.
Avoiding this distracted future and saving your brain, starts with you. It is important to examine your life and ask, is this really what I want to do with my time and with my mind? Shambare, Rugimbana & Zhowa claimed that cell phones are “possibly the biggest non-drug addiction of the 21st century” (2012). Technology driven conversations comes with limitations. Generating face-to-face conversations bring more positive experiences and bonding. Have a conversation instead of composing a tailor-made point of view. If you want to take control of your life and your mind, this is where it starts. Live in the moment instead of trying to capture the moment.