Dad gets home from work and goes down into the basement to watch television and go on the internet. Mom gets home from work, orders a pizza on her Blackberry, and then goes to the living room to check her Facebook account and then maybe blog for awhile. Timmy gets home from high school and goes to play video games in his room. After dinner he goes on Facebook for a bit and then watches a movie online that just opened in the theatres.
On the weekend, Kim gets home from college. She spends ten minutes in the kitchen with her family, while sending six text messages and tweeting twice on twitter. Before she goes up to her room to finish researching a paper she skypes with the rest of the family with grandma and grandpa in Florida.
Does this life sound unusual? Do people really rely on technology to this extent, or even more so? Has our addiction to the internet and technology robbed us of true social interactions, only making it more difficult to engage in true relationships, whether they be simple friendship or romantic connections?
There used to be a time when people held onto the things in their lives. When you bought a house you kept it for years and years and passed it onto your children. Jobs, or careers, lasted a lifetime, and marriages were to death do us part. Now, in a technologically driven disposable society, it is very difficult for anything to last. What is worst about this temporary lifestyle is the fact that our attention spans are one of the leading causes of it.
Have you tried to watch television lately? Have you noticed how many scene cuts or different camera angles are used in the average five-minute segment between commercials? Try counting and you’ll be flabbergasted. I recently took on this exercise myself, counting the point of view cuts in the first three minutes of an episode of CSI. Miami. The episode begins with Horatio’s team believing he has been shot and killed; it is one of the most well-known of the series. How many times does the camera angle change before the credits even begin? Can you wager a guess? 10, 20, 30?
50 times in under three minutes. It’s no wonder that our children are suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. How can they possibly be able to sit through a 30-minute class or lecture when they’ve been conditioned to need a higher level of stimulus?
What does this dependence on technology mean for the generations to come? Will there be a time in the not too distant future where people find regular human interaction too dull? Will families opt to text as opposed to sitting around the kitchen table and having a real conversation? It is already happening. Statistics show that teenage girls on average are sending eighty text messages a day.
If texting was all teenage girls were doing with their mobile phones it would be one thing, but it is not. Sexting is fast becoming the norm in high schools around the world, with children taking nude and sexually provocative photos of themselves and then messaging them to others. This type of sexual play has dire consequences when those photos end up in the wrong hands. Such is the case with a teenager by the name of Jessica Logan, who sexted with her boyfriend. When their relationship ended, he began sending the photos to everyone in the school, and Jessica was constantly harassed. Unfortunately, teenagers often lack the psychological tools to deal with such circumstances and end up making drastic decisions. Jessica hanged herself because of the photos she sexted.
Technology addiction would have been a joke only a few short years ago, or something an episode of one of the more well-known sci-fi shows would have dealt with. We have come so far in only the last 30 years. The early eighties saw the introduction of the personal computer into the home, and now it’s not uncommon for every member of a household to have their own laptop, as well as a cellular phone.
If I said governments were working to curtail this addiction that is plaguing most developed nations, I’d be lying. This move towards a technologically addicted society is pervasive and picking up momentum. Facebook, for one, gets thousands of new users everyday. There used to be a time when social media sites were only for teenagers and young adults, but now it’s not unusual for Aunt Ellen and Uncle Joe to add you on Facebook or your high school principal from 1986.
Technology has made the world smaller. It has made it difficult for governments to be unaccountable for the mistreatment of their citizens. It has made it almost impossible for politicians or celebrities to get away with their improprieties. It has pretty much become impossible to do anything without a video camera somewhere recording what you are doing.
The novel 1984 warned of a future in which the government was always watching and people had given up all of their civil liberties. Technology had changed the way people lived. Was this story of a Big Brother future an accurate prediction of the 21st Century, or have we simply accepted this role of technology in our lives and allowed it to become a reality?
It is pretty much accepted by all that there is some government agency or program out there in cyberspace reading your e-mails and documenting the websites you visit on Google. It isn’t that much of a reach to realize that surveillance cameras on city streets are keeping tabs on citizens, and that your purchases are tracked by credit card companies so they can market similar products to you.
CBC recently aired a documentary entitled Remote Control War. In it, the use of robots in modern warfare is examined and the findings are startling. As of the August 2011 air date, the United States military alone had over 7000 airborne robots and another 12000 on the ground. These weapons are often remote controlled by men and women in Indian Springs, Nevada, far from the battlefield. In the not too distant future, there will be no driver. Robots will be given the autonomy to kill humans whenever their set parameters are met. It is a nightmare straight out of Terminator when machines are built with the sole purpose to kill people. Science fiction has become science fact.
Is this lack of privacy, disintegration of family values, and our dependence on technology troubling? Of course it’s troubling. It should scare us all and drive us to make changes in our personal lives to ensure that we too are not falling prey to technology addiction. Is it likely that we are going to do that much differently tonight when we get home? Will we flick on the television, check our e-mail, Facebook, and maybe watch a streaming video on YouTube before falling asleep? Will we call the people that are the closest to us, or will we send them a quick text message? We are the ones who determine the direction of technology as consumers. If we don’t buy the latest smart phones, and laptops, they’ll stop making them. Somehow, though, I doubt Apple and Microsoft are holding their corporate breath. Did Someone Say Twitter?