Is Technology Too Distracting?

Have you ever just stopped and observed the people around you while at work, at school, or even at home? I have and all I see most of the time is people using some form of technology. Some people are on their smartphones, others on their tablets, and there are those that are using a laptop and a phone at the same time. Sure, they may be doing some sort of work such as school work but who’s to say that they are not doing that, but rather, they are surfing the web, looking at videos or on Facebook? Heck, I have even seen a group of friends sitting together just on their phones minding their own business, lost in another world forgetting they are even with other people. This kind of makes me wonder, why do people use technology so much? Does all of this technology make people distracted from reality, that is, our priorities?

It is amazing when one realizes how far we have come in terms of technology. The first black and white television set was released in the middle of the 20th century, but was only those that could afford it had one in their household. Then the first cellular phone was released at the end of that century and was really expensive and heavy to carry as well. Now look where we are – just about everyone in the country has a flat screen TV in at least one room in the house and everyone in the family has a smart phone or some communication device. Not only that, computers and video game consoles are just about in every house as well, and they are always being used. When one is at home, the TV is usually on regardless if it is actually being watched. Now a lot of work, whether it is school related or bringing in work home from the office, the computer is used to type of documents or surf the web to get it done. When a gamer is done doing their work and finally have free time, they turn on their video game console and enjoy their rest of the day. When one is away from all those things and is bored, they hop onto their smartphone and get on Facebook or take a selfie to past the time. It is hard to imagine this not happen to any individual who has at least one of these things.

Speaking from personal experience, I have taken part in these activities so many times it is basically a daily ritual of mine. I am a college student and have my own smartphone that I barely got a year ago, a laptop, a TV, and more than one gaming console (seven to be exact including my laptop and phone). Here is my daily routine: wake up and usually the first thing I do in the morning is go on my phone and check Facebook, then I get ready and head for school on the bus and while I am on the bus I go on my phone again to repeat what I just did maybe an hour ago. Then, while at school when not in class, I do homework, but on breaks I am usually on Facebook (again), Youtube, and Netflix, or even playing a game. Once I get home, I go on Facebook again and watch something on Netflix while eating. Once I am done, I play a game into the night before going to bed. I repeat the entire the next day and the day after, and the after that and so. So most of my day is spent using some form of technology to the point where it has taken over my life. One could say I have an addiction problem.

To look at it from another perspective, I think people use technology so much because it either makes managing work much easier, offers a good way to relax, or perhaps a combination of the two. If you think about it, a modern-day computer with a keyboard and all the software that goes into typing a paper such as what I’m using now is a lot more efficient compared to what was once used – a type writer. Those devices are a thing of the past but were once used to get the job done. Although it could have been a tedious experience having to type up an entire paper, having to shift a certain part of the machine back to the left after typing a sentence, and if one made a mistake, they had to retype the entire page over again. With modern software, it allows the user to make any corrections needed before printing. Another example would be the telephone. Before all we had was a corded house phone which allowed the user only a limited space in to which to use it. Now we have smartphones that have no cords and can be used virtually anywhere and have internet access which allows the user to use commands similar to that of a computer which can come in handy for those on the go.

So how much is too much? Have we gotten to the point that we need some form of technology to fulfill some craving and that it is too addicting? Some would argue in favor of that because it is distracting. It makes us perform other activities other than what needs to be done. Some could say that, when it comes to children and video games, for example, it takes time away from the family and school-work. Charles Darrah, author of “Busier Than Ever”, reflects how busy people in society can be for various reason and notes how when it comes to children and education, they can be very distracted. He mentions one family tried to be responsible parents, “What would make us more effective parents would be to get rid of what makes us ineffective: television and video games… it’s when they become an obsession, they [children] don’t pay attention” (182). As extreme as this scenario appears, I think this is most common in children who are not really into school-work, but rather, play games and with their toys.

I remember as a kid my parents put forth this rule of “Do your homework first and then you can play but only for an hour”. Admittedly, I know I broke this rule more than once but I can honestly say that it instilled this “value” of putting my work first, a majority of the time anyway. As far as I can remember, I always did my work and got A’s in practically all of my classes from elementary to high school. Obviously, I would always play video games at home either before and/or after I did my homework. The point is, I did my work on time.

So how distracting is technology? Well, I think it depends on who you ask. You have many different kinds of people walking around with various personalities. If one examines a straight A college student, chances are they are spending more time on getting their work done so there really is not a lot of free time for them. If someone is not into video games at all, they might spend more time doing other things like working or replace that with more emphasis on TV (I know a few people who do this). I think technology becomes a distraction only because certain devices offer features that offer that temporary feeling of satisfaction or an escape from daily problems. For example, the smartphone I have has an app where I can access my college student account and access class materials online without needing a laptop so I can just read an article a professor posted while riding the Fax bus and not have to wait to get home to use my laptop. Although I have other apps such as Facebook, Youtube, and various games so like with any other person, I tend to get tired of reading and want to do something more “fulfilling” and automatically resort to Facebook even I just checked it a few minutes prior to reading that same article even though I know maybe one or no new piece of news has come up. So yes technology can be useful in making life easier but it comes with setbacks of its own which distracts users. It all comes down to the individual in trying to manage their time wisely.

by Dominique Zamora

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