Plugged In, Tuned Out

For all of the benefits of technology, it's worth asking whether they're offset by the drawbacks.

photo by Michael Taffe

Jeannie Schleppy, Reporter

Technology is beneficial, right? That’s what we were always taught, growing up with television, cellphones, and computers. More importantly, with the internet and social media outlets becoming more pervasive, technology has become unavoidable in our daily lives.  And for most of us, there appears to be nothing wrong with that.

According to the Pew Research Center, “The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers and roughly half own e-reader devices.” Technology is even starting to be incorporated into our classrooms at school. What could possibly be wrong with this much exposure in our society?

Today, technology has shaped us in such a way that we cannot live without it. However, there are many factors associated with frequent tech usage that negatively impact us.  In fact, some of those factors are quite alarming. 

For example, over-exposure to technology leads to distractedness. It’s rather difficult to argue that iPhones, Apple watches, and Airpods are not addictive. We constantly have access to such electronics, and it’s now clear that it hinders our social skills, along with our ability to work efficiently. I have experienced this firsthand. Whether I’m in the classroom or at home working on my homework, my iPhone distracts me when I am trying to work or focus. I am constantly thinking about my Snapchats, texts, and social media when my phone is nearby. I’ve learned to avoid the distraction by placing my phone in a different room when I am working on a project or trying to study. 

Instagram and Facebook users, be careful. You may not know what you’re getting yourselves into.”

In addition to hindering our focus and productivity, technology affects our social skills. According to Business Up North, Melissa Ortega, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York, “claims that children use their phones as an ‘avoidance strategy’ and can have trouble initiating ‘those small talk situations.’ Similarly, Dr. Jenny Radesky of Boston Medical Center, states that kids ‘learn by watching,’ and suggests that if they aren’t engaging in physical socialization, keeping their eyes instead on their smartphones and tablets, then they are missing out on important communication development stages.”

I have also witnessed how technology can affect children’s social skills. I work at a daycare, and there are two children who come in frequently. They are two and four years old, and both have access to their own tablets. Their social skills are limited, for they very rarely greet the adults who run the daycare let alone make eye contact. They are constantly on their tablets and do not interact with other the children.  It’s actually quite shocking to witness.

Technology also takes away our right to privacy. With social media outlets constantly surrounding us, we compulsively post what we do with our lives for practically anyone to see. You might have a “private” Instagram account, but it’s not actually as private as you might think. According to BuzzFeed, “Photos and videos posted to private accounts on Instagram and Facebook aren’t as private as they might seem. They can be accessed, downloaded, and distributed publicly by friends and followers via a stupidly simple work-around. A user simply inspects the images and videos that are being loaded on the page and then pulls out the source URL. This public URL can then be shared with people who are not logged in to Instagram or do not follow that private user.”

Instagram and Facebook users, be careful. You may not know what you’re getting yourselves into.

Technology has produced once-unfathomable gains, but the progress has come at a price. The more we depend upon tech, the less capable we become to do and think for ourselves. And perhaps the biggest irony of all is that we are constantly plugged in but we are increasingly tuned out.