Kara Vitalone is from Long Island University, United States. She won the 1st prize in our essay competition winning $365. She wrote on the topic: How are gadgets changing our lives for better and for worse?
If Alexander Graham Bell were to see what became of his telephone a century and a half later, he would be astonished at all it became. Today, a telephone is rarely used to hear a friend’s voice on the other line, but instead to see their face, to look up information, to provide a route to get to that person. The phone has become more than a way to communicate with others, but a security blanket for some who always have it on them. Now the phone can even be used with other devices such as smart watches, so one is always connected. It’s not only phones that have evolved but also technology in general. Computers, laptops, iPads, tablets, and devices all constantly evolving to become more efficient and provide more convenience to users. But the question is, does the convenience provided by technology outweigh the consequences it has on daily life and interactions?
First, there were paper maps, folded, ripped, coffee stained, and taken on long family road trips to find a destination. Then there was MapQuest, using their website it was possible to create a precise route to one’s desired ending point. Even allowing for comparable routes, with or without toll roads, it provided a major convenience to the driver and the passenger reading the long sometimes large and outdated paper maps. GPS devices were then created a small portable direction-giving device. This device would speak to drivers telling them which way to go to reach the destination. And now GPS has moved to smartphones, most people using Apple Maps or their devices map to find directions anywhere they could imagine. Technology has provided a way to get to anywhere in the world given there are satellites a small device can reach, and the battery does not run out, Siri can guide you from the mountains of Virginia to the glistening beaches in Florida.
It is not only directions smartphones provide but also instant information. All of those lingering questions, the last minute doubt before a test, can be answered by Google on a smartphone and can be answered almost anywhere provided the cell phone user has data. Information no longer has to be looked up in a textbook, praying the topic is listed in the index but instead can be looked up in a search engine instantly giving users millions of answers right at their fingertips. Keeping old textbooks for reference has become almost a thing of the past with some grade schools even switching to providing students iPads with E-books to carry from class to class.
The mother of all technological advances has been social media. The ability to instantly share one’s location, thoughts, feelings, photos and opinions for all the world to see or their selected friends. This allows people to keep in contact with relatives and even peers that may live far away. People can even send money on some apps instead of mailing money or gift cards to distant friends and family. Phone numbers are not necessary because people can message on social media to people they may want to keep in contact with whenever they wish.
However, social media has been characterized by some as the demise of social interactions has also characterized social media, as society knows it. Because of people’s instant ability to share anything they wish, at times, they may share too hastily. Twitter feuds are a common theme among teens and celebrities who share an unpopular opinion behind a screen and then face the consequences of another person with a different opinion fighting back. Instead of confronting the friend who is hurting one’s feelings, individuals take to Facebook to make a passive aggressive status, so the friend who hurt their feelings is made aware as well as the rest of their internet friends. Friendships end up lost because of something that could be solved had they spoken face to face privately about what was going on. Cyber bullying is a phenomenon going around the globe in developed countries where bullies take to the internet instead of the playground, leaving hateful comments on other students profile or messaging them hurtful things. Some even posting photos or embarrassing posts to humiliate the individual. Cyber bullying allows the bully to hide behind a screen; there is no remorse when they cannot see the hurt in their victim’s eyes.
The worst is that young people don’t realize some of what they post to the Internet is there forever. Stories about kids not getting into college or not getting jobs because they posted underage drinking or bullying another person or inappropriate photos to their page. The consequences are not immediate enough to prevent people from posting. Instead, they come later when they try and get a job or create a reputation different from their twenty photos underage drinking in someone’s backyard.
Not only are there consequences for sharing too much or being too bold on social media, but also consequences for being in continuous contact with people who may not have continued to be in one’s life had it not been for Facebook. Things like divorce because people found someone else on Facebook, or depression because someone does not feel adequate compared to their peer’s lives are all problems social media creates. Society as a whole loses social skills, social skills become best when done behind a screen, and the ability to confront someone face to face diminishes.
The more time spent on a screen, the less time spent making genuine interpersonal interactions. And this means the further disconnected from one another society becomes. Technology has provided a great convenience, instant information, instant directions, and the ability to share with loved ones from far away. But it is important to keep in mind the importance of being able to be unconnected from the world, to go off the grid, in order to reconnect with the small world created in front of you. To maintain family balance and social interaction, this is crucial. Technology is meant to be an aid to daily life, not an interruption.