Is Technology Ruining Society?

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This is something I think of from time to time.

There used to be a time when I could remember and dial a friend’s telephone number directly from memory.

In fact, I still remember many phone numbers from my days growing up in NY.

The problem I have is that while I can remember those numbers–probably because I had to memorize them back then–I cannot for the life of me remember any phone numbers of the people I have met in recent years!

At least I know and can admit, that it’s due to having a cell phone which stores everything and enables me to not have to think of it much.

But it’s not just about phone numbers…

Many people are pointing to technology as a cause of childhood obesity.

More and more studies are being done on the issue, and the common result is an increase in this trend.

The most common causes are typically television and video games, which have replaced playing sports or running around outside with friends as the prevalent after-school activities for many children.

For adults, the accused culprits are different yet the same, for example, people spending more time driving and less time walking or biking to reach their destinations, or more time catching up on the DVR than exercising.

Have you ever noticed that some people are constantly on social networking sites and have tons of “friends” or followers, yet you never see them out?

Or how about people that check into every single friggin’ place they go without fail?

I have actually seen one such instance where someone I know checked into an exit off of I-95!

I kid you not.

There seems to be an increasing number of people who cannot do anything without tweeting or checking in or posting about it.

It just seems to me that sometimes technology causes people to lose a bit of–I don’t even know what to call it–brainpower for lack of a better term.

The culture of immediate response had led to something that troubles me very much.

I have noticed that many people, particularly the younger generations simply cannot spell or speak correctly.

Even when they aren’t using text messaging or Twitter which creates the need to truncate complete thoughts into bits here and pieces there, there is still something off.

If you look at Facebook, where people have the ability to, and often times do write long status updates, how many do you see that are rife with spelling errors, use of the wrong tense, misuse of words, and other communication basics that should have been mastered in elementary or junior high school?

Have you ever noticed how some people online seem to be so open and opinionated, yet when you are in an actual social setting, they are as lively as trees?

It’s like when they step away from the keyboard, they step into this bubble of social awkwardness.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have those who seem to have no sense of self or shame.

Everything they have is due in some part (most likely a large part) to technology.

The nobody who becomes famous because of a sex tape that was “leaked” onto the internet.

The idiot who does stupid things and posts to YouTube getting a following of other slacker-types and parlays that into a reality-tv show.

The completely moronic comments by the self-promoter (yes, you Money Mayweather!) and other self-control lacking fools who take to social media to boost their visibility.

It may just be the way in which the world is evolving, with technological advances being demanded and pushed by both consumers and manufacturers respectively.

It may also be simply the meandering of a part-time cynic.

But, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of technology.

I am in favor of anything that makes life easier, as long as it isn’t taken so far as to remove the importance of maintaining the mental ability and basic things such as interpersonal communication and basic reasoning.

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  1. Excellent post Eric, on a very current issue. I think technology plays a role in the obesity epidemic but perhaps poor diet is a bigger factor. I agree with you completely on social communication skills though. Ther are so many other options to communicate with people now other than actually speaking with them that this skill needs attention.

    Reading this article made me fel kind of old, like I’m judging the younger generation and their lack of refinement. Every generation before us has probably felt the same way on some level. I turned 40 this week so I’ve been giving this a LOT of thought.

    Have a great weekend. Is your tax crush still on? 

    1. I felt old writing some of it, Hunter–I’ll be 35 a week after the tax deadline.  I think the nutritional side is a factor but not as important as what people choose to do in their spare time.  There are plenty of studies that show “unhealthy” foods don’t have to be such a negative if used in moderation with some sort of regular exercise.  Overall, I think a comprehensive health plan needs to be in place for kids, and in that case technology can absolutely be a huge plus.

      And yes, I’m certainly feeling the tax crush.  6 days, 50+ hours a week.  Very much looking forward to May 1 when my “slow” period begins!

  2. I remember always knowing my friends phone numbers as well.  Now, when I get a new one, I don’t have any idea what the actual number is once I program it in my phone.  It happens.  I guess the upside is that we can use that space in our memories to remember something else that we wouldn’t have otherwise.  🙂

    1. I don’t know.  I can still recall random events and people from my childhood, which makes me wonder if I’m just off in some way 🙂

  3. I really dig your opinion posts! I think people are empowered to say LESS but say it more often. So we get inundated with tweets about Lady Gaga’s freak monsters and wishing celebrities happy birthday.

    I also see a huge rise in passive aggressive behavior. It’s so easy to disrespect people in text format. 

    “Proudly Facebook free since…birth.”

    1. Thanks John!

      Especially now, when there is so much going on and not much time, I find myself thinking of odd things to write about.  It’s almost like I deal with finances and taxes so much these days, they are the last subjects I want to think-much less write-about!

      I love how people think that if they tweet a celeb or write something on their Facebook wall that they will actually get a response, and if they do (which is most likely not from that person but from a rep) they feel all special.  Some of this stuff really causes people to put on blinders and take things for more than they really are.

  4. Some people lose perspective when they open their mouths on the internet. They do and say things they would never do in person or even on the phone. They turn into crazy bullies and trolls.

    I think the informality of the internet encourages the use of improper grammar and slang and reduces the importance placed on communicating with proper spelling and grammar and punctuation. Unfortunately, this spills over into other forms of communication. Some of the business communications I receive are atrocious and nearly unreadable.

    1. I feel ya dawg!

      Seriously, I know exactly what you mean, Rachel.  To me, nothing tells me what I need to know about someone in a business sense than the way they hold themselves out to others, and the way they communicate.  Plus, I think when it comes to the internet, it’s almost equivalent to the “liquid courage” people get when drinking.  Hiding out behind a computer and a fake name empower many people to be idiots.

  5. When I was a substitute teacher it was obvious that a certain per centage of kids just could not spell to save their lives.  That continues through all grades and even into college.  I think there are some who just can’t learn to spell.  I don’t know the reason.  Maybe it’s something in the environment or their parents took drugs.  There doesn’t seem to be any explanation for it.

    1. I notice that too Maggie.  It’s really hard to comprehend how, even as adults, some egregious errors in spelling and grammar are made.  If it’s an issue of English being a secondary (or even tertiary)  language, it’s more plausible but not for native speakers.

    1. Either that, or technology is just making it easier for people to be lazy and will accentuate the negative issues.  I’m definitely hoping for your proposal rather than mine!

  6. I think technology is bad for society in a sense that our technology is getting better too quickly.  I really believe that technology has a hand in our last economic downfall.  Better technology at plants means machines can do the jobs that humans once did, and they can do it better (less error).  Remember CDs? I used to have a huge collection, now I only listen to music digitally. 

    Technology is great, but sometimes I feel that it is getting better too quickly for our own good.   

    1. What about the minidisc, Evan?  Remember how that was going to be the new music platform?  Technology evolved so quickly that they were obsolete before being marketed. 

  7. Yes it is. We’ve become so dependent on technology, that we can not function without it. The internet, cell phones, tablets etc. are taking over the world. What concerns me though is that many people are using technology for illegal purposes and they are succeeding!

    1. I can definitely see the illegal side being a huge concern going forward.  It seems that the bad guys (and gals) are more savvy and adept at using tech wrongfully than the rest of us are at using it properly!

  8. I think technology is very definitely changing us, and I am not sure all of it is a positive change.  I think we need to remember the parts of us as humans that technology can do a disservice to are the parts that lesson our emotional connections.  Email connects to very few of our innate emotions–though they can make us angry, they don’t usually engage our emotions.  We have to read too much in to them.  Text messages or IMs are a bit better, because we actually can interact more like we talk –give and take, ask and get answers.  Video via Skype or Facetime?  Even better.  We can bring many more of our senses into play.

    On a different note, I have a friend who has had mlni-strokes and is using her iPad to keep track of her life.  I am working on a lengthy post about her experiences.  Very inspiring use of technology.

    1. I absolutely agree Thad, there are some technological implementations that remove the human component from communications.  I also find that it’s terribly difficult to convey tone through non-interpersonal communication.  Speaking of senses being brought into play, I can’t wait to watch the Food Network or browse the recipes on their site using some form of interactive “smellivision”!

  9. i find the free support that comes with technology just leads to learned helplessness.  People never want to figure stuff out anymore because they can call a 1 800 # anytime and have someone teach them something they could have learned by reading the manual or googling. But no. So I think tech support is ruining society, not technology.

    1. I’m not so sure about the support leading to “learned helplessness”.  For starters, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause irreparable damage to tech items.  Secondly, if it’s not information that will be used multiple times, it may just make more sense to have someone fix the problem than to spend the time searching, reading and learning something.  It’s not a bad thing to forego doing something on your own if someone else can do it more proficiently, especially if you can spend that saved time doing things that you enjoy or that enrich your life more.

  10. Technology is being pushed on us and it is sinister. It eas pushed on me. I went and bought it. It was pushed on me! No I went and got help to purchase it. But it is being pushed on me. And it is sinister how I don’t blame me because I am afraid of it. So I bought it to look it dead in the eye.)

    And now I am brain scrambled. I went and paid a lot to brain scramble myself unaware because I didn’t know cellphone technology was so sinister and pushed on us by evil people by making me make me buy it to look it dead in the eye. I bought it and used it enough. Way
    too much and I am mentally programed to be their lab rat.

  11. I think that the push for technological advances in how we communicate through technology should progress, but at the same time also keep up with how to PROPERLY communicate with face to face interaction. It makes me sad seeing people so attached to their iphones and twitter accounts, it’s ridiculous. I long for the “old days” when you had to call someone on the phone to talk to them, not just send a text message. People are losing sight of how things were.

    The world today is all about advancement and power and this now FAST! People need to get over how fast they can communicate with someone just because they have great reception with a thousand dollar phone, and at least think about what life would be like without the advances we have today. I feel as though three out of five people would rather look at their phones around a campfire rather than sing a song with a guitar. Just a thought, that is sad. Cherish chivalry, patience, and friendship. Don’t depend on being happy by using a smart phone.

  12. Is Technology Ruining Society?
    Namely the internet, and specifically social media.
    The internet held, and still holds so much potential to make the world a better place.
    Unfortunately it has, as of late, morphed into a device of division – separating the first and third world countries from each other. What could be a wonderful media for the exchange of ideas has devolved into a “hate delivery system” for the dregs of society.
    In addition, our entire (first world) society is now nearly completely digital. If the internet were to fall at this point we would lose roughly 20 years of history – as we hardly possess hardcopies of our documents or images anymore.

  13. I agree and find comfort in knowing that I am not the only person having the same or similar concerns about the direction and over saturation of technology in our daily lives.

    In the 1980s, it was rare if not unheard of to see someone talking on a mobile phone, maybe your super rich neighbors had a “car phone” but more likely, even doctors or other important public figures were marked with the bulky pager attached to their hips. Mobile phones were so rare and if someone had one, people would stare at them, thinking “Wow! He/she must be rich and important!”

    The 70s and 80s was a different time. As a child, I recall what a different place the world was. Of course there was a lot of things going on that might still be of concern today, but the whole perception of things was just different.

    The communities seemed different. You may not have known everyone in our community or on your street but you at minimum likely knew the names of your neighbors on both sides and at least the closest across the street. I won’t even go as far to say everyone was friendly or that we had close relationships with more than a couple nearby neighbors, but there was some degree of respect or at least knowledge of people existing nearby.
    Today, it’s a different world and our communities are defined by social networks, which could extend from your living room to anywhere in the world. Ironically enough, many people are apart of these vast “social” venues but couldn’t tell you any of their neighbors names, what cars they drive or whether or not a strange car was in their neighbors driveway. I have been at people’s homes and they couldn’t remember whether their current neighbors where the same neighbors that lived there years ago or if someone else had moved in or not. Going next door to ask for a cup of sugar or flour would have caused them to question whether or not I was insane or making a joke.

    My first degree was in Multimedia and Web Design. In the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was so involved and fascinated by technology, seemingly a few years before most of my friends (and the rest of the world) had jumped on the band wagon. I can recall being one of the first in my real network of friends to have an old mobile phone, when you actually had to pay per minute and per text, in addition to the monthly service fee. When I would go to people’s homes, I would always power my phone off, unless I was expecting an urgent call, I would then excuse myself and step out on the porch because it felt so rude to be at someone’s home and take a call while visiting. It just seemed inappropriate.

    These days, try watching a movie or visiting people and see how long it takes before someone is on their phone for one reason or another. Ironically, people seem to talk less on the phone and are primarily focused on text messages, social media and other forms of distraction and entertainment.

    Regardless, people’s lives are now dominated and controlled by their phones, whether they are driving down the road, visiting people they haven’t seen in ages, during supper or meal times, while dealing with private matters, at work, during meetings and even when they are wiping their butts while sitting on the toilet. It’s really become an obsession for most people, often at the worst times and in the most inappropriate places. It has become a problem that is not bringing us closer together, as us designers and developers had hoped, but rather it is tearing us apart as a society on so many levels.

    You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that technology has had a major effect on our health, interpersonal relationships, social skills and mental abilities. I also can remember telephone numbers from my past but recent numbers since the 2000s have been lost or never memorized in the first place. Many young people don’t even know what “Penmanship” is and can’t understand the importance of being able to write, speak or do so without a phone.

    I truly believe that modern technology and the abuse or overuses, the dependency on our technology has taken us backwards in social skills, common respect and decency, as well… even with Google, Wikipedia and other online tools and references, people have lost many basic skills, common sense and gained huge amounts of false or superficial knowledge. The old saying that “Knowledge is power” seems so obsolete these days, since everyone has access to knowledge, maybe too much, the question we must ask is: whether or not the knowledge we have is true, false or invalid.

    What good is a wealth of knowledge, if that knowledge doesn’t result in wisdom or truth? I believe a mind full of tainted or false knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all.

    Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (and all the other blogs, forums and social networks and sources of information) to name a few are replacing our libraries and scholarly sources of information. People are constantly “researching” information but what they call “research” is not the type of scholarly research I would place much merit with. A scholar or researcher knows, the first results you get on Google is based on who paid the most to be at the top, even when it is unrelated or false. Most scholars also know, most research conducted using a search query or index like Google, is not qualified to be considered “scholarly” and is typically not allowed in accredited schools of higher learning.

    FB, Twitter and Instagram should never be a place to do any type research or fact regurgitation as it’s typically not factual, it’s mostly information based on opinion and is often politically and socially biased information – if not completely fabricated for propoganda, entertainment and commercial purpose. Or in many cases: uneducated and/or ignorant remarks from people excercising free speech.

    People spend “quality” time with their families, while glued to their phones, each person “uh huh” ing each other when in reality they didn’t hear a word that was said because they were busy playing with their phones. A night out on the town or a nice social dinner out with the family, from what I see at the many places I have traveled, includes cell phones during dinner conversation, people texting each other when they are sitting next to each other (which I find extremely rude and inappropriate, especially when in a group when you know they are talking trash about one of the people they are sitting with at the table) and really, how many times have you been in a store or when a cashier or a waiter is talking to a customer or waiting on them and the person is holding things up to take a call in the middle of being served or waited on? Rude. Anymore, you cannot drive down the road or go in a store or public place without a mobile phone user causing some sort of problem or risking the lives of others to surf the net or chat with their friends. It’s ridiculous.

    I had high hopes for technology. I loved technology and still do but it makes me sad.
    I am a gen-Xer and have seen many recent queries asking what happened to Gen-X, the founders and pioneers of social media and the web boom… We are still here but I think many of us are shaking our heads and feeling like we opened Pandora’s Box and realize you cannot stuff the Genie back in the bottle.

    Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others were once our heros, they were role models and tech masterminds and marketing geniuses that we all admired for the advancements but being close to some of these circles, we realized the reasons why even these giants limited or restricted even their own families from being consumed by these technologies. Even in college we learned about the morals and dangers of technology and the implications of it’s widespread use. I only wish more of us had payed better attention or understood how important and truthful the predictions were.

    Our reality has become a virtual reality and the things people feared in the 1980s-1990s, the fear of microchips and barcodes use to terrify us and ironically enough; they realized they didn’t need to tattoo a barcode or place microchips under our skin… All they had to do was give us access to a Mini-Computer that makes and receives communications, pleasures us and makes life a bit simpler and we would never leave home without it! And boy, the corporations and government couldn’t be more happy about all this!

    They knew we would never wear a dog collar so instead we have mobile phones in our pockets and we all pay for the pleasure of selling our souls to big business and government while dividing us on unpresidented levels.

    We gave up reality so we could have the virtual version that allows us all to be whoever we want and block out the rest of the world that we don’t want.

    It’s a sad state of affairs.

    Rmzey Zein

  14. I’ve been feeling like this a lot recently. I’m 21 so while the internet has shaped my entire life and I’m grateful in some ways, I think it has damaged society in too many ways.

    There are so many problems. There’s an over saturation of media. There are no consequences. We’re being led into a dopamine-filled world. Being right is more important than anything else. At this point, I will not be able to share half of my political views with others because I will not only lose all my friends, but they have the potential to doxx me (these views are along the lines of, “communism isn’t great,” not something horribly offensive).

    Traditions, socializing, and traditional media are being dumped, leading to people needing to find culture in the internet. While this can be good (I was a very lonely teenager who had no friends), this leads to polarizing on all sides. And if you speak against it, it’s so easy to just throw them out of the group. It’s horrible.

    Sorry, this is probably a mess. I need to organize my thoughts better and write an essay about it sometime. I’ve been mostly thinking about how the internet could be changed (maybe back to the late 2000s internet?) without completely destroying freedom of speech and privacy. It’s hard.