When it comes to the topic of the impact of digital devices or modern technology on society, most of us will readily agree that technology has positive and negative effects on our social and personal life. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of does technology control us? Whereas some are convinced that we need to embrace the technology, others maintain that we are living too much in the virtual. While still others are concerned about how we lose sight of the reality because of technology’s capability to make it happen. Andrew Lam, a Vietnamese journalist and a short story writer makes a point in his article “I Tweet, Therefore I am” about how technology is drastically changing the way we look and react in our society. One of the examples he uses to clarify his point is about the professor who collapsed while preparing to give a lecture. Lam said, “Instead of helping him, many students in the audience took out their cell phones, snapped photos, texted and tweeted” (Lam 1).
The students wanted to be the first one to spread the news so that they could gain popularity or feel proud of themselves for having the power of recording the extraordinary event that just happened. As we try to be the first one to tell the news, we don’t realize that we are losing our empathy. The students sure did feel badly for their professor, but their first reaction was that they have to record it instead of giving a hand or calling an ambulance. I understand why the students reacted by taking pictures or videos of their professors, because I also had those times where I witnessed some unusual happenings and the first reaction I felt is that I have to take pictures of it and share it with my friends by posting the pictures/videos in social networks I am using. I also understand why Lam is concerned about this, but this is a reality that automatically happens as we immerse in the generation of technology.
This is not good because we are letting the influence of technology forget one of the most important aspects of socializing, showing respect and care to someone. We are changing in order to fit in to the digital media and social world. Lam mentions, “Generations have been raised on video games, spent the bulk of their lives in chat rooms and on YouTube, on cellphones and iPods. They have been conditioned to invest the bulk of their emotional life in the virtual space” (Lam 5). I agree that most of us, in this generation, isolate ourselves in our own place inside the technology. It makes us busy in not such a productive way because we can sit in a chair or lie in bed just focusing on our phones, computers or tablets and not realize that we’ve just wasted hours or worse, our whole day. I could stay in my bedroom facing my laptop, chatting my friends for three hours. When I am done with chatting, I close my laptop and start texting.
When I don’t text I watch funny and interesting videos on my iPod. Therefore, I would say that my daily routine is occupied with technology and mobile devices, whether it is good or not, technology is a part of every single day of my life. As we get benefits in the use of technology, we also need to accept the consequence that comes with it. Lam also makes a strong point when he said his view about the social media and its effects in on our personal lives, “We do not fully exist without some sort of electronic imprint in the virtual world, a digital projection of ourselves” (Lam 25). I agree with that because as I see it, we are now in a generation where people use technology, our life revolves around it, and we introduce ourselves to others using technology. We are then starting to care less and less about our personal lives.
We are now posting what we feel on a Facebook status, we tweet our thoughts in Twitter, we even write what we are doing and where we are in our personal blogs. Instead of just writing it in our journal or diary, we are now sharing it to the world which makes us feel part of the society but making us care less about what we share and lets us forget the real meaning of privacy. What I don’t agree with in Lam’s article is when he said that, “…they (we) may just be leaving something important and irretrievable behind” (Lam), because although there are certain negative impacts of technology. I would not say that we are losing empathy as we immerse ourselves into the digital devices because the technology and its advancement aids the society as a whole and the important things we want to share. Whether it is good or bad news, we get the freedom of sharing it, reaching more people faster. Most importantly is when we find some people who can relate to us making us feel more important and better, and that is because of the widespread influence of the technology.
Another essay that makes a point and shows concern about the impact of technology is entitled “How Computer Change the Way We Think” by Sherry Turkle, and Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Turkle’s concern is how digital devices change the ways we think, how we are all relying on the benefits of technology and as we rely on it. We are losing our true identity and ability to do deep thinking. Technology blinds us with what is most important, which is enjoying and making friendships and relationships through physical interaction. Tukle said, “For those who are lonely yet afraid of intimacy, information technology has made it possible to have the illusion of companionship without the demand of friendship” (Turkle 603).
Instead of meeting real friends in the park or mall, we add “friends” on Facebook. Instead of talking to a person face to face, we can text or tweet them and they will text/tweet back to us. Technology helps our social life easier in a way that we are losing the ability to interact to a person physically. As a personal example, when my family and I are having a dinner in a restaurant and while waiting for our order to come, we hold our iPods and smartphones, texting or playing games and I notice the silence because we are so busy with our gadgets and mobile devices. After reading Turkle’s concerns, I realize how rude that is. We are in the restaurant to bond and talk, yet we are in our gadgets talking to other people who are not in the table by means of texting. We are playing games instead of chuckling with our sisters and brothers.
We are slowly forgetting the importance of having a face to face interaction. We depend so much in the computer that we are now letting the computers do the work for us and it is making us do less deep thinking. Moreover on Turkle’s concerns, he said “It does not teach students to begin a discussion or construct a narrative. It encourages presentation, not conversation” (Turkle 603). Though the PowerPoint gives us better look of what we want to share, it also have negative effects especially to students. Because of the PowerPoint, the class has now lack of discussion, making the PowerPoint do all the talk. The “swooshing sounds, animated icons, and flashing test, a slide show” (Turkle 603), distracts the students from the real purpose of the presentation. Some focus too much to the functions of PowerPoint and end up thinking of how can we make it looks attractive to the eyes of the audience instead of how they can understand the ideas behind main points.
When it comes to privacy, we are not fully aware of the negative and dangerous impacts of sharing our personal information to the public and to the government. We thought that as long as it’s the way to get access on particular websites, it is fine to share anything they ask for. Turkle says, “Unlike past generations of Americans, who grew up with the notion that the privacy of their mail was sacrosanct, our children are accustomed to electronic surveillance as part of their daily lives” (Turkle 602). When it comes to accessing web services, I also don’t hesitate giving my personal information such as my name, address, contact number and I am willing to type it down as it is the only way to get in to the web services that I need, especially for school and work. Also for social networks, it is required to put my name, a profile picture and some basic information such as birth date and relationship status.
Technology is taking away our privacy. We are giving the world to access our life. The dangers of sharing information have been in the news nowadays. There are now people who hack accounts and try to change or mess with our profile. Although we are aware of the danger of sharing personal information on the computer, we are still doing it because we enjoy its benefits. Whatever negative impacts we get in technology and mobile devices, we have to face the reality that we are now in a generation where technology will grow and grow and the next generations to come will depend on it more than we depend on it now. The only thing we can do is not to let technology fully control our daily life by appreciating the outside world and the real people.
Lam, Andrew. “I Tweet, Therefore I Am”. Reading Culture: Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing. Ed. Diana George and John Trimbur. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012 Print. Turkle, Sherry. “How Computers Change The Way We Think”. The Writer’s Presence. Ed. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2012. Print.