Modern technology has changed the world and its people in a great many incredible and exciting ways. We live in a society more connected, more knowledgeable, and more advanced than anything our ancestors could have dreamed up. We’re fast approaching the point at which science fiction will become reality, with breakthrough after technological breakthrough.
It’s not all smooth sailing, though. Our bodies and minds were never designed for the hardware and software that’s become a part of our every day lives. While we’ve certainly revolutionized the way we do things, the technology we’ve used to change the world is also changing us. And not all of those changes are positive.
Most of us live a largely sedentary lifestyle. We drive to work and sit in front of a computer desk for hours at a time. We drive home and sit in front of a TV, game console, or computer for hours at a time.
An obesity epidemic is sweeping across the developed world. We’re experiencing joint pain and back problems. Our sleep habits are being warped, distorted, and debased. Our lives are consumed with electronic addictions. I’ve already spoken of this in one of my previous pieces, so I won’t spend too much time on this one.
Suffice it to say, hardware seems to be bad for our health.
We dwell in a culture of distraction, one which is fast becoming more focused on piecemeal entertainment and instant gratification than careful, intelligent thought. A thousand different sources with a thousand different pieces of visual information in a thousand different formats all vie for our attention at once. It’s all anyone can do to remain sane in the face of all this information.
As a result of the severe overload, we’ve tuned out. We take bits and pieces from everything, getting bored if something attempts to hold our attention for too long. Forty years ago, it might have been commonplace to curl up with a good book. Now, we’re all on YouTube watching videos of cats. It’s bad enough that the average attention span has dropped from twelve minutes to five minutes, a trend which shows no signs of slowing.
A bit distressing, no?
The Global Village is in actuality a very, very lonely place. The streets sit empty – everyone’s inside their silicon houses, browsing the ‘net. Even though we’re more connected than ever before, we’re also more isolated than we’ve ever been.
We communicate with one another through channels that are a pastiche of face-to-face contact; pale imitations which struggle to convey some of the most basic messages. This is hardly news: we’ve known since 2005 that the Internet has been linked to social isolation. Now, in the age of Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, we run the risk of forgetting how to truly communicate altogether.
Hand-in-hand with the reduced attention span that’s come about as a result of the Internet, the average person is also starting to develop some pretty severe issues with impulse control. Cheating on a spouse, making a foolish purchase, gambling, spouting off a cruel remark…these are impulses and urges which have always been present in one form or another.
The Internet hasn’t imbued us with these impulses. Rather, it’s weathered down our resistance to them, made it far easier for us to access them and act without thinking. It doesn’t help that on some level the primal part of our brains simply doesn’t understand that what we do on the ‘net is real, and has real-world consequences.
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about Facebook for a moment.
The birth of Facebook (and of social media as a whole) has led to something knowna s “the ME generation.” Again, this is something I’ve touched on before. There’s a certain egomaniacal narcissism brought on not just by social media but by the Internet as a whole. The idea that we can get anything we want with a few mouse-clicks and that we’ve actually got an audience to view our triumph is…well, it’s intoxicating, and thoroughly unhealthy.
Look, I’m not saying the Internet is bad, nor am I slamming technology. I love the ‘net, and I don’t know what I’d do without my odd assortment of gadgets. All I’m asking is that you remain aware of the risks. We’re living in an era our ancestors couldn’t possibly have imagined. The question is whether or not we’re actually ready for the world we’ve built.
What do you think? Have you seen – or experienced – any of these (or other) effects of modern technology? What do you think we should – or can – do about it?
Post your thoughts in the comments below.