The Social Impact of ‘Everywhere’ Technology1 | 2 |
In assessing the risks inherent in 24x7 Internet access, it’s important to consider the concept of self-correction. This is particularly germane to the topic as it relates to adults vs. children.
While adults may eventually conclude that Internet use has become pervasive in their lives to such an extent that it is a detriment, “children do not tend to self-correct except when there is an obvious danger,” Hartsell said.
And Internet addiction is far from an obvious danger: As access and convenience increase, it passively establishes itself in the daily routines of individuals.
To better diagnose the problem, it helps to look at how advances in technology have socially asserted themselves in the past.
“At the moment, the online world and gadgets are just beginning to become sophisticated, so we will have to watch closely to see the effects,” Hartsell said. “However, if we look back at the ways various technological applications have played out in society, the precautionary principle should be enforced more stringently now. Thus, the principle itself is self-correction.”
Thinking around this topic is relatively new; in fact, there’s disagreement as to whether Internet addiction actually constitutes an addiction at all.
“There’s no agreement on a basic definition or symptoms or any of that, so it’s still very much in the air as to whether [Internet addiction] truly exists or not,” Grohol said. “My problem with the whole theory is that anything can be addicting. When TV first came on the scene, people were concerned about children becoming addicted to [it], and if you keep going further back, you’ve got the same concerns about movies and radio. It’s human nature to almost fear these new things that do initially take an enormous amount of time and focus away from our family and social life.”
Again, this is where self-correction — the ability to set limits on how much time people allow the Internet, or any activity, to take from their lives — becomes important.
“People [for whom] it’s not self-correcting certainly might need some assistance or help with the problem, but I don’t think it rises to the level of needing to give it a new label and call it an addiction,” Grohol said.
So will 24x7 Internet technology continue to increase in severity, or is it as mature as it’s going to get? After all, it’s hard to see it getting more omnipresent than it is now. When people can take the Internet with them everywhere they go, where do you go from there?
Grohol predicted the technology will expand further. “I don’t think technology has plateaued, and I don’t think our ability to find new ways to interact with it in more intuitive manners has plateaued,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go before we’ve reached any kind of technology plateau between being immersed in this technology and feeling connected with our friends and family.”
Hartsell, meanwhile, is philosophical in considering the continual growth of this technology. He feels people should consider whether adapting every piece of newly emergent technology is necessary.
“As new waves of technology come to us, there will be the potential for advantages and disadvantages, each with its own graded potential or degree,” he said. “Thus, the conditions will change as new technologies emerge, and the concepts of severe or mature now will become a various set of potential circumstances under newer, future emergent conditions. Sometimes, it’s better to simply not do what it is possible to do because the product or process is not necessary, or not important, or simply too risky.
– Daniel Margolis, email@example.com | 2 |