How technology hurts us

Snapshot of the most depressing thing we’ve laid our eyes on in a while: two nicely dressed young adults, presumably on a date, sitting across from each other in total silence, ignoring one another for the entertainment of their respective smartphones. Unfortunately, this is not that outlandish of a sight. With our generation’s addiction to mobile technology and social media, it seems as if dinners are more often set to the auto-lighting of an iPhone than to candlelight.

We at the Clog recognize the benefits that these forms of technology can offer us. Direct messaging and sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help us promote our professional careers, stay updated on club matters and keep in touch with distant friends. But when we have to install Chrome Nanny to keep us off of Reddit before a midterm or get in potentially life-threatening car crashes because we couldn’t wait to respond to a text from our friends, it’s an understatement to say that our priorities are getting a little out of whack. Don’t misunderstand; there’s nothing we hate more than holier-than-thou types. We are just as addicted to these things as the next person is. But hopefully considering the detrimental effects technology has on our daily lives as students will be enough to convince us all that the way we use it often isn’t worth it. Without further ado, here are some areas where technology might slowly sucking the life force out of us.

Relationships

Why is it that thousands of young, spritely, educated, intelligent students can’t help but reach for their smartphones when they get together? Look around campus. At cafes, parties, discussion sections or pretty much anywhere that tradition and human decency would tell us to look one another in the face and make conversation, a lot of people are more comfortable looking down at their screens. It’s almost a reflex — and an extremely inconsiderate one at that. There is nothing more rude and offensive by making it alarmingly clear that you prefer the allure of a social media notification than the conversation of a real human being sitting in front of you. Social media is the greatest paradox. It gives us an illusion that we are becoming more connected to people when, in reality, it is crippling our social skills. The act of “liking,” “favoriting” and commenting on posts by “friends” on these sites might seem like a legitimate way to establish or maintain valuable relationships, but no amount of thumbs-up buttons will replace genuine, in-person human interaction. You know — with body language, voice inflections, real words and stuff. By allowing ourselves to spend so much time with these often empty forms of communication, we are preventing ourselves from seeking true intimacy with other people, leaving us feeling socially unsatisfied.

Academics

Translation apps for language class, educational websites like Khan Academy — we may have failed without these tech developments. But what’s more likely a reason we were struggling in class in the first place is that we were too preoccupied with distractions on our phones and computers. It’s almost comical to sit in a crowded lecture hall in Wheeler and see hundreds of Facebook homepages glaring on the screens in front of you.These sites are designed like the classic Skinner box; we click a certain button to receive immediate gratification. Our smartphones have essentially destroyed our ability to concentrate, encouraging us to leap from one application to another for any bit of entertainment. Regardless of technology’s addictive qualities, the ability to focus and a very expensive education aren’t things we should be OK sacrificing just because we  heard our phone buzz.

Mood and personality

Addiction to social media sites and the like, similar to an addiction to a drug, can be detrimental to your mood and, ultimately, your personality.  Ever log off of a social media site feeling lousy about yourself? It’s alarmingly common. In fact, Time reports that scientists who studied 600 people active on Facebook found that one in three felt worse than before visiting the site. It’s no wonder that networking sites can easily becoming breeding grounds for self-esteem issues. People anguish over social approval in the form of a “like” on a post or an invitation to an event. Negative body image is also a residual effect of frequent visits to these sites when people compare their pictures to those of their peers.

A lot of us spend a considerable amount of time and effort trying to present the best-looking, most interesting, coolest, most popular version of ourselves to  acquaintances through tech mediums. What we want people to realize is the cost is just too high. If you aren’t happy being on the social media site you probably found this article on right now, then log off.  Less time focusing on these things will translate into more time doing the things that actually make us feel fulfilled and happy, like completing assignments, finishing a book or sharing a laugh with friends. “LOL,” “haha” and “grinning emoji face” simply just doesn’t cut it.

Image Source: William Hook under Creative Commons 

Contact Liz Zarka at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Zarkotics