The Effects of Technology on the Societal Interaction

Jul 2, 2018
folder_opencategory: Technology

Introduction

The advent of a technological age brought with it its advantages and disadvantages. Its impact is evident in all areas of human life. Indeed, technology encompasses all aspects of scientific application in the society. One of the most revolutionary contributions of technology relates to the way humanity interacts. The invention of the internet in the 1960s was the beginning of the popularized information age (or computer, digital, new media age). The information age refers to the period in history, where focus shifted from the industrial technological revolution to a more computerized technological revolution. Historians have described this period as the one that is defined by control and access to information. This control and access to information fuels the way humanity socializes. The invention of e-mail in 1978 by VA Shiva Ayyadurai ushered a new way of communication and socialization. This milestone preceded other related inventions such as social media sites available today. The question is in what way the technology has influenced human interaction. In addition, one may wonder whether we have lost touch with each other or the technology has actually helped us to make better connections with each other. Technology has become an integral part of our lives. It is therefore crucial to analyze its effect on society and evaluate both its pros and cons. Therefore, this paper will discuss how technology caused people to forget how to live life in a real way.

Discussion

The video Look Up features a 4-minute spoken film that addresses the current online generation. As the name suggests, it asks this computerized generation to drag away from their phones, tablets, computer screens, television screens, and video games and embrace life in general. The speaker argues that the current generation is so immersed into their technological devices that they lose touch of their personal interactions with those around them. The video focuses mainly on the negative impact of the social media interaction on the society and then gradually pans out to cover other media as well (Turk).

The speaker starts out by saying, “I have 422 friends yet I’m lonely; I speak to all of them everyday, yet none of them really knows me”. This is a reflection of most of the lives of the young people in the current generation. They spend hours on the social media websites such as a Facebook and Twitter. They connect with many individuals from different countries, and spend all of their free time sharing their experiences with the people, who are practically strangers to them, the people they have never met and will probably never meet. They are immersed into the world of internet interaction; yet, they are alone, because most of these 422 friends do not have a personal relationship with them.

The speaker portrays the social media interactions as illusions. The sense of connection and companionship that personal interaction brings cannot be achieved through the social media interaction. Life literally passes by while we tap away at our phones. The speaker calls us a generation of robots. Our lives are being controlled by the technology we created. This societal degradation is passed down to the future generation. Children have grown to become socially detached and non-interactive. For instance, they spend hours on video games and television. The speaker compares this situation to that of the past. He says, “Now the parks are quiet; it gives me a chill. See no children outside and the swings are hanging still”. The speaker also points out that social media have brought about a world of “self-interest, self-image and self-promotion”. This alludes to the argument that social media interaction has promoted vanity in the society, more so amongst the youths. They have become more self-conscious about their looks and pictures they post on social websites. In this new generation, your popularity is gauged by the number of friends on Facebook or the number of followers on Twitter. It is gauged by the likes of a Facebook or Instagram picture. It is from this standpoint that the speaker argues that social media have brought about vanity and self-interest. In conclusion, the speaker urges our generation to look up, be productive and present, as well as awake and inclusive. In shunning these detached interactive avenues, we embrace life and live it in a real way.

From the video Look Up, it is easy to dismiss technology as being deteriorative; however, one should not overlook its advantages. In the article “The Technology and the Society”, Raymond Williams looks at the progressive and retrogressive impact of technology on the societal interactions. He argues that technology and its inventors are not evil. In fact, Williams argues that it is humanity that is abusing technology. Williams suggests that in order to solve the issue of technology and its societal effects, there is a need to “restore intention to the process of research and development”. This means that we need to look at the intended usage for the technological inventions of our time. What were the purposes that fuelled the research and development of these technological inventions? In so doing, the humanity can realize that we are abusing the inventions such as the social media, as pointed out in Look Up. Both Williams and Turk agree that technology is being abused, but are divergent when it comes to their proposed solutions. In Look Up, Gary Turk seems to be advocating for the shunning of technology-based interactions such as social media. This is because he only cites the disadvantages of technology. On the other hand, Williams agrees to these disadvantages as shown in Turk’s video, but proposes a different approach to dealing with the problem. The solution, according to Williams, is not to shun technological interactions altogether, but sensitize the public on the purpose of the development of these inventions; hence, on the ways to use them in a proper manner.

In defense of technological interactions, Williams shows their advantages. A report published by the American Academy of Paediatrics shows that online connections with friends and positive use of the social media are healthy contribution to the growth of children. As such, they get to connect with their peers to share their interests; hence, the child embraces a similar larger community of his/her peers. While Turk shows how we lose touch with our loved ones by connecting to strangers, Williams adds that technology helps us to stay in touch with close people. Communication has been made easier, and the world has become a “global village”. Thus, distance is not a limiting factor in communication all thanks to technology. Additionally, the video games that Turk dismisses are beneficial to a child’s learning ability, according to the report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as cited by Williams.

Technology also influences other spheres of society as well. For instance, the several technological advances have been used in the field of education. The main aim of technology in education is to sustain the current learning systems with the growing population. In so doing, learning outcomes have been maximized in the various learning institutions. H.G Wells was the man behind the idea of a globalized network. The Sci-Fi writer termed it as a World Encyclopedia (Goldsmith, Jack, and Wu). Wells envisioned a global network for the sole purpose of sharing information, especially academic information. The internet was the realization of Wells’ vision the impact of which on the education sector cannot be overstated. This connection is being picked up by several learning institutions in order to share information and has become an integral part of our children’s learning process. This shift from the traditional methods of learning to a more technology-based approach has bred a tech-savvy generation. The results of incorporating technology into the learning process may be advantageous or disadvantageous. Sociologists deem that social media and prolonged use of the internet is addictive. There have been calls by many professionals to officially declare it a disorder – Internet Addiction Disorder. In light of this, it is worrying that the same tools are being exposed to young children in their learning process. Over 90% of children aged between 5 and 8 years have access to computers (Brand, Christian, and Young). The use increases significantly as the children grow older. This early exposure, especially in learning institutions, fosters a detached society. From an early age, children lose touch on societal and personal interactions. The result is the type of society that Turk describes in LOOK UP. It is, therefore, necessary that parents and teachers control children’s access to technology. This issue goes beyond the use of computers. It involves the hours on television and videos games that have become common in most households. While incorporating technology into learning institutions serves us well, regulation is necessary in order to avoid the retrogressive effects (Beetham and Sharpe).

Social psychology is a branch of psychology that attempts to understand the nature of individual behavior and thought in a group setting. The main aspect of understanding social psychology is attribution. Attribution implies how people collect information about other people in a group setting (Baumeister and Leary). In so doing, we can form judgments about them. Attribution determines how we interact with other people. A person’s image is a factor that influences society’s attribution towards him/her. Sociologists, however, show how the value attached to a person’s image in the recent years. This can be attributed to the influence of social media particularly on teenagers. Social media is like a huge popularity contest. Websites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are what the current youths use to measure one’s self-image. In the teenage setting, attribution is based on the interactions on social media. The retrogressive effect of such interactions is that people will go to great lengths to “fit in”. The value of image is more prevalent amongst teenage girls. Some resort to extreme measure such as posting inappropriate photos just for popularity boost. Overindulgence in technology has bred a society whose main basis for attribution is popularity on social media. This situation extends to schools and all other areas of teenagers’ lives. Psychologist Abraham Maslow created a list of needs that influence an individual’s behavior in society. The need to belong was at the center of Maslow’s pyramid. He deemed it as an essential determinant of social interaction. People will behave in a certain way that is socially acceptable in order to belong (Baumeister and Leary). Promotion of vanity on social media sites has pushed many teenagers to embrace the notion of vanity in order to get with the program. Societal attribution should not be based solely on self-image especially not on social media.

The influence of technology on a person also influences an individual’s interaction with society. An individual’s self-esteem, for instance, is influenced greatly by their interactions on social media and other platforms as well. Self-esteem especially in children influences how they interact with the society at a later stage. It influences their view towards the world. In today’s technology-based world, interactions on social media influence self-esteem. This impact is more pronounced in young people’s lives. This is due to the fact that many of our youths have had nasty experiences on social media and other interactive platforms for cases of cyber bullying are on the rise. They account for 17% of all the bullying cases in the USA according to the report by the Urban Institute. In addition, 36% of teenagers claimed to have witnessed a case of cyber harassment (US Department of Health & Human Services). Effects of such traumatizing occurrences include anxiety, sleep deprivation, and low self-esteem. The National Crime Victimization Survey shows that the threat of cyber bullying goes beyond computer screens. A rising number of students feel threatened due to cyber bullying cases. There have also been instances where cyber bullying escalated into violence, more so in schools. Interactions on social media usually expose individuals to all kinds of people. It is a vast platform where one can interact with people from various lifestyles. This vast platform presents the dangers of damaging self-esteem especially in the youth. In extreme cases, cyber bullying results in suicide. This was the case with Ciara Pugsley, a 15-year-old girls who took her life after continued harassment on Ask.fm. She was incessantly called names like ‘slut’ and ‘ugly’, which led to depression and, ultimately, suicide (US Department of Health & Human Services). Ciara is among other teenagers who decided to take their own lives after continued cyber bullying. The damage of such interactions to the youths is extensive. The resulting low self-esteem has a long lasting effect on an individual’s societal and personal interactions.

However, the benefits of technology in societal and personal interactions should not be overlooked. As pointed out by Williams, the initial need that fuels invention of technological advances is usually geared towards the greater good. The problem comes with the use of technology. For instance, there has been push to regulate cyberspace by various world leaders. UK Prime Minister stated categorically that the internet cannot remain an ungoverned space. His concerns stem from the use of the internet by terrorist organizations such as ISIS to further their agenda. These terrorist groups have resorted to using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and posting beheading videos on YouTube. However, it is the same social media platform that we use every day to connect with a long lost friend or stay in touch with a relative oversees. The same technology can be used in two different ways: progressive and retrogressive. Therefore, calls for regulation should not be dismissed taking into consideration, for example, the traumatizing effect on a kid who watches the beheadings on YouTube. Regulations should exist at all levels. Government efforts to regulate the use of technology should be complemented by personal regulatory measures. Parents need to be actively involved in their children’s lives. Parents’ negligence is one of the things that make a society enslaved by technology. In most cases, parents are too busy with their work lives. Their children spend all their time in front of television screens, computers, and on their phones. Parents need to actively involve in their children’s social lives (Dekovic and Meeus). Regulation should start from an early age. This ensures that children are not exposed to inappropriate material.

Conclusion

The retrogressive effect of technology on the societal and personal interaction is clearly brought out by Turk and Williams. Therefore, there is overwhelming evidence in support of the aforementioned thesis statement. The only difference is how to deal with the problem as pertaining to technology. Turk advocates for a radical solution that is shunning technology altogether. He says that humanity should learn to live in the moment but not have an excluded lifestyle detached from their surroundings. Williams’ solution is a more neutral approach. He first cites the advantages of technology, an issue that Turk’s video overlooked. His proposed solution is an investigative one. Williams suggests that we should look at the intended purposes for these technological inventions and the way we are misusing them in a bid to change for the better (Williams). In addition to understanding the intended purpose, there is a need for regulation. The regulation advocated for cuts across all levels. There are already laws that criminalize acts of cyber bullying as well as spreading negative propaganda on the internet such as terrorist agenda. The solution does not lie in abandoning technology as a whole. There is a need for a paradigm shift as far as the usage of technology is concerned. The paradigm shift should be geared towards moderation and regulation.

Works Cited

Baumeister, Roy and Mark Leary. “The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachment as a Fundamental Human Motivation.” Psychological Bulletin 117.3 (1995): 497.

The article looks into how individuals behave in a group setting. The authors explain how a person’s behavior is influenced by group mentality. The influence stems from the human desire to belong and fit in. This desire becomes a motivation for human action especially in the youths.

Beetham, Helen and Rhona Sharpe. Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Pedagogy refers to the methods of passing on information on different concepts especially theoretical ones. The book looks at the methods available for the digital age owing to the advancements in technology. The opportunities to improve the learning environment come with challenges as shown. Therefore, it is necessary to design a learning environment for the 21st century that uses technology in the right manner.

Brand, Matthias, Laier Christian, and Kimberly Young. “Internet Addiction: Coping Styles and Expectancies & Treatment Implications.” Frontiers in Psychology 5 (2014).

The article focuses on the impact of internet addiction especially among the youth. The causative factors include exposure to internet at an early age as well as overdependency and overuse of technology. This creates an addictive scenario in terms of technology. The article also explores the treatments available for internet addiction.

Dekovic, Maja, and Wim Meeus. “Peer Relations in Adolescence: Effects of Parenting and Adolescents' Self-Concept.” Journal of Adolescence 20.2 (2002): 163-176.

Parenting is a huge determinant in terms of self-concept and self-esteem of children. The current society faces laxity and absent parenting. According to the article, this has negative effects on the children’s upbringing. More involvement is needed from parents.

Goldsmith, Jack, and Tim Wu. Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

The book explores the origin and nature of the internet. It recognizes the need for regulation in terms of internet usage especially with the rise of cyber bullying and cyber crime.

Turk, Gary. LOOK UP. Video. 25 April 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.

Look Up is a spoken word film highlighting the disadvantages of technology-based interactions. It focuses mainly on the retrogressive effects of overusing technology in our daily lives.

US Department of Health & Human Services. Facts about Bullying. 10 August 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.

A website by the US federal government aimed at addressing the multiple forms of bullying. It provides statistics on bullying occurrences as well as the present laws on the issue of bullying.

Williams, Raymond. “The Technology and the Society.” Williams, Raymond. Television: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies 2. 2003. 9-31.

Williams explores the impact of television on various aspects of society. In doing so, he shows how society is misusing the television. He suggests a look into the original intended use of the television and suggests that society draws from it. In his view, we are abusing the various forms of technology at our disposal.

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