Cultural Analysis: The True Cost of Technology

In my lifetime alone (born in 1994), technology has advanced in such a way that it has simultaneously destroyed communication and fostered connectivity unlike anything we have ever seen. Receiving my first flip-phone was one of the most memorable days as a pre-teen. I could finally call my parents to check-in, rather than walking all the way home every two hours, from wherever I was playing with my friends, to assure them that I was still alive. My dad built computers while I was growing up, and when I received my first massive, blocky, ancient desktop computer I was ecstatic. I really enjoyed playing games on, and I absolutely loved using the built-in paint feature. Technology seemed so simple then. Phones were for talking to people, and computers were used to play silly, simple games. In 2018, technology has become so much more than a couple gadgets that make a few things a little simpler. While both good and bad, technology has, in a sense, taken over. Unfortunately, if I was to reflect on my technology use, including cell phones, computers, and TV, I’m not so different than the slightly younger generation who were spared the years of “playing outside,” a generation I’ve grown to pity and, to some extent, detest. Being someone who likes to believe I don’t need technology as much as many others near my age, I was disappointed to learn that may not necessarily be the case.

            Cell phones and computers have become nearly synonymous, yet in my house of two there are three computers and two cell phones. Why is that? Sadly, it’s because I am a little more dependent on technology than I’d like to admit. Additionally, I have three TVs placed all throughout my house. Upon waking up, the first thing I do is check my phone. I respond to any text messages I may have, check my e-mail, and scroll through Facebook to see what other people are up to, and whatever “news” is trending. If it’s a relaxed day at home, I will eventually get out of bed and do some day-to day tasks; dishes, shower, vacuum, brush my teeth, cuddle my dog, and make something to eat. Somewhere amid that, I will probably turn on the TV located in the room I’m in for background noise. That’s right, I rarely even watch TV. Eventually, I will settle in and go on my phone or computer further. Whichever I choose, I usually end up doing the same things mindlessly. Still no texts, just junk e-mail. Facebook is still a cesspool. Yet, I continue that cycle until something comes up that briefly requires my attention to be elsewhere. Technology is my “home base”; no matter what I do throughout my day, I always revert to scrolling through my phone or computer, listening to, and sometimes even watching TV, or listening to music on any one of those devices. Depending on the day’s events, I can spend anywhere from 2-12 hours using technology, which is truly disappointing.  While there are very valid and unavoidable negatives to technology use, there are also many significant positives that cannot be ignored.

Some of the most significant changes I’ve noticed over time have to do with the collapse of face-to-face interaction, and attention spans that seem disturbingly short. Before I had access to the technology that I do today, I was forced to talk to someone if I had an issue with them. Today, I could choose to simply not deal with them and block them. I was taught to look people in the eyes while I’m speaking to them, but if I tried to do that now, chances are the person’s eyes will be looking down at their phone. If I’m attempting to have a conversation with someone, and they are preoccupied with their phone or computer, I don’t even bother. I’m not going to fight for their attention. Inversely, I know there have a been a few times people have thought the same about me. I’ve stated numerous times that I’m going to delete my Facebook account. Yet, here I am with the same account I’ve had since I was 13, unable to tear myself away from the posts made by people I hardly know anymore that typically do nothing but annoy me, make me feel bad about my position in life, and contribute to my feelings of resentment towards humanity. All because my attention span cannot seem to handle having nothing to do for more than a few minutes. My technology dependence, however, seems to be more of a “filler” rather than a dependence on the technology itself. If I’m busy all day, I will rarely use technology aside from a few necessary apps. Technology has aided in the break-down of some beautiful things and, as sad as it is, I don’t think it’s going to stop. In fact, it will only worsen.

Pessimism aside, technology’s true purpose, and what I think has been distorted and taken for granted, was to improve our lives and, sometimes, it does exactly that. The ease in which we do things like navigation, shopping, banking, and, of course, communication is incredible. When I was 18, my biological father and his family located me, for the first time ever, through Facebook. Cell phones give me a way to talk to family members and valued friends who I would otherwise never get to speak to. What used to require the tedious act of following a paper map, is now simple and hands-free. Personally, I feel the unlimited access to knowledge is a benefit that is largely taken for granted. When I was in elementary school, I remember having an entire class dedicated to learning how to conduct research in the library with actual books. I can only imagine how much easier our assignments would have been if we had access to the online resources we have today.

I think, like anything else, technology has its benefits and its downsides. While I’m guilty of significantly more technology use than I would have guessed previously, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That being said, there are certainly areas of my technology use that need to be adjusted or avoided altogether. I would love to improve my social skills and overall lessen the feeling that I need technology. I should definitely eliminate things like Facebook, that add no value to my day-to-day life, and usually leave me feeling very negative about one thing or another. I don’t think technology and its increase in usage in the future is a question of if, but I definitely will start asking myself how I will utilize current and future technology to maintain the helpful purpose I like to believe it was created for.