In a time where people seem to be constantly with their smartphones, reading on their laptops/tablets rather than a book found on a dusty library shelf, living vicariously through the internet, and being alive within this digital age for humans is fast, connective and strange. Yet, these aspects of the internet helping people learn faster and connect with people from all over the world brings on challenges. The amount of information available makes it difficult for us to focus on one thing. When we want to have more of a person to person interaction, our own technology sometimes gets in the way of us creating that meaningful bond. And, when we want to go out and do things, we must wait for our technology to be charged so we can take it with us and post online the activities we are hoping to do. Is living in this time of the internet going to benefit us as a race, or will it be our downfall?
Through the internet and technology like the smartphone, we are more connected than ever before. We are connected to an almost unlimited source of information, are able to call almost anyone from anywhere in the world in a click of a contact, and can entertain ourselves for hours upon hours. But, what comes of this within our society. Jean M. Twenge states, “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household” (2017.) Personally, I see and have lived through some of the positives and negatives that the technologies we can now generally all access on a day to day basis can cause. From wasted hours of watching videos to not feeling like your social media is up to par with others, there is a sense of trying to create oneself on the internet that all can see and admire. Jean M. Twenge also discusses the allure of independence, and with new technology there seems to be an even larger amount of people more willing to stay in and be on the internet and their phones rather than going out and doing something they cannot in their own homes. The amount of access to information, media, movies and more from the confort of our home is easier than having to get up and go to where we can access these things.
An addiction that the very lifestyle of being on the internet may create can be negatively impactful on not only the user, but the people around them. In the documentary “Lo and Behold:Reveries of the Connected World” 2016 by Werner Herzog, Herzog interviews a recovering internet addict. This individual discusses how not only how his addiction to a “gamers” lifestyle was ruining himself, but how it was hurting those around him. He says how he was on the computer for more than 16 hours a day, his relationships with both his family and girlfriend were becoming non-existent, and his will to live was begining to fade into hopelessness because of it. I thought about how I myself have lost precious hours that I cannot get back, because I’d rather play a video game than facetime or call my girlfriend or a family member, and this very act made me feel terrible about how technology was damaging the relationships that I held close. like many, I was able to understand how this was damaging myself and was able to curb this habit quickly when I realized it right off the bat. For some though, this habit becomes an addiction like the man interviewed in this documentary and can have real life damaging consequences.
With the internet, humankind has shifted it’s thinking and way of thinking. For some, critical thinking seems to be the essence of creating change, but in a time where you can just search online for the answers, critical thinking is the harder route to solve problems. With new technologies and connectivity through the internet, companies like SpaceX led by Elon Musk, want to take this window of time to both use critical thinking and the internet as tools to send people to other planets. By living in a digital age, thinkers from all different fields can interact, learn, and discuss things together in order to progress. This is a way that living in a digital age can benefit our society. What hurts our society in this digital age is potential hacking, internet trolling/ bullying, and using the internet as a distraction rather as a tool for the ordinary person. Through internet connection we may be able to expand our experience as humans and learn to become more reliant on the technologies we create.
Living in a digital age is strange and different than that of which generations before us have lived through. We are more connected than ever, yet we isolate ourselves more than we ever have before. For example, teens nowadays would rather stay in than go out and be with people. Jean M. Twenge adds the study to her article that 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates, whereas for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was around 85 percent. She also adds how teens are’t having sexually interations until later in their lives. So our intimate relationships have been declining, but things normally assocciated with being negative like STDs, STIs, and pregnancies for teens has dropped dramatically. As a human race, our technologies drive social change like nothing has before. The internet creates a space for people to lay down their story as well as bring together ideas from all over the world. It is a space where people can be damaged by the addictions of itself or benefitted by utilizing it as a tool for research and thought.
Will living in this digital age benefit myself and those around me? I cannot answer that directly until I’ve lived through it to see how it impacts our society. I hope that it will benefit us! Will it be our downfall? I highly doubt that it will. For some? Maybe, but overall I see the internet as being an extension of ourselves, a tool to help us evolve and will eventually be what changes humankind to become faster, smarter and stronger as a race. But, that also sounds like a science fiction novel. If we use our technologies in a way that will benefit us, then maybe this change in humankind isn’t too far off.