Is technology taking over our lives? Or do some people just make choices with regard to choosing technology over interacting with their family and friends?
I don’t believe that “technology” can take over our lives — unless we choose to let it.
So it was with interest that I saw a lengthy article written over at the New York Times, “Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.” I was going to comment earlier on the article, thinking it was going to be this thoughtful, in-depth look at how technology is impacting people’s lives for both the positive and negative.
Instead, it appeared to be some sort of story revolving around a guy called Kord Campbell and his family. Kord apparently has a hard time prioritizing things in his life — to the point of actively ignoring his family, getting distracted by minutiae of little importance, and missing important emails in his inbox (not just once, mind you, but over and over again). If this sounds more like someone who may have bigger issues than just learning how to integrate technology successfully into their lives, you’d probably be right (but of course, I’m just speculating).
My skepticism over Internet addiction is well known. But it extends to every over-hyped article that suggests that humans can’t keep up with the pace of technological change.
History is a great teacher. If you go back and dig up the micro-fiche from newspapers and magazines about what we would call “human interest” stories from the past, you’d see these kinds of stories are nothing new. Similar stories came out during the Industrial Revolution here in the U.S., with journalists writing about how the machine was overtaking man.
What we learned from that era (and from many others, such as the introduction of the telephone, the radio, the car, the TV and video games) is that man can keep up with technology just fine. Families adapt. It takes time, of course, since we are creatures of habit and don’t adapt to new changes as easily as some might think. So during that transition time — which can take anywhere from a few years to a few decades — we get the endless stream of largely anecdotal stories like this one.
The section in the article about humans’ inability to multi-task well is something we have also noted in the past. It’s the one good take-away from the article. Humans still don’t do multi-tasking well, and if you ignore that piece of information that comes directly from the research data and try to multi-task 20 different things on your computer screen(s) at once, you have only yourself to blame.
It’s like telling someone, “Hey, if you press this button, you’ll get a treat, but also a bonk on the head.” So they press the button, get the treat, but also the bonk. You’d think if you do it enough times, you might eventually learn that the value of the treat is likely not worth the bonk on the head.
Our brains love change, contrary to conventional wisdom. It keeps the fresh and actively thinking. Our brains on technology will take time to adapt, to learn and to grow. Most of us will find a way to integrate technology — such as the Internet or whatever new mobile phone comes out — in beneficial ways in our lives. But for some of us, it’ll take a little more time and skills learning (since learning to become more disciplined about our use of something like the computer really is something akin to a learned skill).
Read the full article: Your Brain on Computers – Attached to Technology and Paying a Price