Our relationship with technology is much more nuanced than typically discussed. On one end of the spectrum, the conversation usually revolves around a pros and cons list of the ways we love or hate technology; on the other, technology is portrayed as a dystopian future in the making. From claims that Alexa is merely priming a future of boundless surveillance to the latest Child’s Play installment reimagining its decades-old villain as simply an unwitting pawn in a technological takeover, technology is often discussed in a negative light.
Wherever on the spectrum a conversation about our ever-evolving relationship with technology lands, one point is aptly consistent—modern technology continues to recalibrate the cadence with which we live our lives and process our experiences as human beings.
Although I’m part of a generation that has rapidly adapted to the astoundingly sophisticated technology that makes people, places, and ideas more accessible than ever, the meaning of its exponential growth is not lost on me. For years, I stored my school projects on floppy disks. On the rare occasion my brother let me use his Nintendo, I’d make malfunctioning games playable again by refreshing a cartridge with a burst of air. My first personal music listening experience was a Walkman I inherited from my mom. I ascribe my eclectic music taste to my family’s assortment of cassettes—the only portable music available to me at the time.
Nowadays, every morning when my smartphone’s microphone detects my REM cycle and wakes me when I’m in my lightest sleep, preventing me from endlessly pressing snooze, I’m still impressed. When finding my way around unexpected traffic is simply a “route options” toggle away, I’m not just grateful for the time saved; I improve my navigation skills around my city. When I can make a phone call through a Bluetooth device, I can’t help but say aloud, “That’s too cool.”
Developers, scientists, and product designers have expertly designed both the technology that shows me exactly how far I can stretch a tank of gas and the social media platform that keeps me scrolling and consuming content late into the night.
What’s often understated is that human psychology and behavior exist with or without modern technology. Too often, rather than take a closer look at our impulses and ways of thinking and socializing, we blame the devices and algorithms that have expertly harnessed our psychology for profit.
For example, it’s been argued that the instinct that compels us to scroll through a social media feed, when not in search of anything in particular, could be the same monitoring instinct that drove our ancestors to poke their heads out of their dwellings to check for predators. For me personally, it’s the same impulse that drives me to pull back the shower curtain to check for an unlikely intruder.
Researchers and news outlets routinely report on this psychological phenomenon. For example, we know that the average mobile phone user checks their phone 52 times a day. We also know that people engage with more emails, text messages, digital ads, and notifications than ever before, begetting paradigm-shifting approaches like employee engagement solutions that cut through the noise.
However, if we simply imply that modern technology is renegade power that’s now effecting humans and no longer being affected by us, we miss an opportunity to evaluate its impact in a fresh, meaningful way.
So, what should inform our usage of technology? How can we quell concerns about its proliferation and what it means for our future? These answers can’t be gathered with a simple Google search alone. As technology continues to advance at an exponential pace, rather than carelessly consuming it or assuming it’ll bring about the worst outcomes, we should start grappling with these often-unasked questions:
- What drives my technological impulses? In other words, why do I feel anxious if I leave my phone at home or don’t check social media right after I wake up before I start my day?
- What am I doing with the time technology gives back to me?
- Are the technological advancements I invest my hard-earned money, energy, and attention into improving the quality of life for everyone, not just those with shared privileges and levels of access?
- How can technology be applied to make the world a more equitable place—one in which non-negotiable human needs and rights are afforded to all, one in which the planet that sustains us is protected and preserved?
In the same way that humans have always driven the advancement of technology, we can insist on what it accomplishes next. We can find the balance between the automation and cyber-centric change that drives us forward and the human curiosity and questioning that set it in motion. Although Google can connect you with pretty much any piece of information you could want, you’ll only know why you want it and what to do with it by first asking some questions of yourself.
Caitlin Gibson works to revolutionize employee communications as a multimedia writer at GuideSpark. She specializes in content that demystifies how to build and sustain a positive, equitable work culture. When she’s not writing, Caitlin can be found attempting to walk her cat, Juniper, daydreaming about space travel, or starting a new home improvement project.