As the world becomes increasingly connected, one of the chief concerns voiced by a growing number of cynics is that we’ve become far too dependent on the Internet, our devices and technology in general. While we usually laugh these critics off, calling them old-fashioned or behind the times, we rarely stop to truly assess how much merit their claims have.
An adverse side effect of using technology is how it is making it increasingly difficult for people to concentrate on what they’re doing. Tapping or clicking a device results in an immediate form of gratification that is absent from books, magazines and newspapers. We want our information and we want it now and unfortunately this doesn’t translate well to reading. Reaching for my phone to check my Facebook or read the news has become second nature to me in a way in which older forms of procrastination like daydreaming never could.
While you may abstain from using social networks, your virtual profile (or its absence) will be noticed. This essentially means that when people send you messages or invite you to events, your inactivity is seen as indifference and in some cases, hostility. This phenomenon is what sucks you into this virtual environment against your will.
While there are unfortunate side effects to our addiction to technology, we like to think that the utility gained from having access to such a wealth of information far outweighs the utility lost. However, when it comes to news and the ways that we accumulate information about the world around us, I can’t help but wonder how useful all this information truly is. I would argue that the knowledge you accumulate about the world around you by reading newspapers such as the FT or the New York Times in an hour is about as useful as the wealth of information you can accumulate from Twitter and Pulse (a Newsfeed app) throughout the day. After a certain point you’re no longer improving your understanding of the world around you; rather you’re soaking in a higher form of gossip.
Our obsession with technology has evolved into a cult of information in which we race to stay current and ahead of the times. Did you see what happened to x? Did you hear what y said? Questions like these dominate conversations and further fuel this cult of information. This phenomenon combined with the instant gratification of modern devices makes our minds restless and unable to wind down to appreciate the slower pace of the printed word.
We need to slow down and filter our sources well. Quality is far more important than quantity in the information age. We have to make sure that our lives do not revolve around social networks. Lets appreciate devices for what they are but not forget the pleasure of getting lost in a good book.