It’s hard to pin down the exact point in history when technology started offering devices that provided a more efficient lifestyle in day to day life, but I would assume that it’s somewhere around the cotton gin and the Industrial Revolution. Resources became more prevalent as technological discoveries influenced the convenience of our daily lives, and eventually, there wasn’t a person without a car, cellphone, or credit card. However, was all of this necessary to the advancement of humanity as a whole, or was it mere convenience?
While new technology has provided a myriad of positive attributes for modern day society, it has also brought on unforeseen consequences by actually taking certain things away. Nobody disagrees that prolonged life expectancy, heightened public safety and a wider distribution of foods and services is good, but are things like social media, constant entertainment and a frequent advertising presence good as well? As much as we reap the benefits of technology in our daily lives, we still fail to notice its detriments to society. Due in part to the fact that technology’s pros are blatant and easily seen, its downfalls are hidden and less noticeable.
The most widely used and most commonly purchased accessory would obviously have to be the cellphone, the product that has, in my opinion, unleashed the largest amount of psychological damage on the public. Originating from a plastic brick with an antenna in the early 70s, the cellphone has evolved over time into the metallic rectangle we know and love today. In 2007, when the first iPhone was released, its functionality and possibilities in use excited the masses into purchasing one for themselves. By the end of the year, nearly every person was using an iPhone. With this came an online marketing platform and a seemingly endless ocean of applications for us to enjoy. Social media flourished because of this, resulting in things such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine.
While all of these social media outlets serve different purposes, they all happen to share one core element: their impact on the human brain. Whether it be for taking pictures, watching videos, or listening to music, the use of phones and social media serves as a constant reminder of the maintenance regarding their existence. In a study conducted by Science Daily in January earlier this year, reports that the use of iPhones in the focus group were directly linked to an increase in anxiety as well as poor cognitive performance. What we post on these social media platforms is, in some way, shape or form, an extension of ourselves. However, when a version of one’s own identity is cultivated online like this, one often tends to become attached.
In a psychological study conducted by the New York Times in 2011 comparing MRIs and brain scans from iPhone users to non-iPhone users, the study found that people who had used their devices for more than a year felt an attachment to their devices, stating that its use had grafted itself to the owners very ego and identity. iPhones and social media can feel like necessities, just like the need for water and oxygen. Growing to the point of feeling like a limb or an appendage, the iPhone becomes part of one’s being. Given the scarce use of iPhones for calling, the name really ought to stop being “cellphones”. Because people are able to create virtual identities for themselves on various social media outlets, it can become too much to handle, seeping into the public’s non-virtual lives.
This means that society as a whole is sacrificing its focus, presence, attentiveness, and just general well-being, all for the sake of reading that new tweet as soon as it comes out. At the end of the day the question poses itself: was it all worth it?
By Hank Gowdey