Many people cannot see the harm in overusing technology. They figure that if something was invented to make their lives easier, they should use it without limitation. The underlying problem with this thinking is that it does not consider the health, philosophical or ethical ramifications of technology use. The idea of technology being purely progressive and helpful to our lives is a mislead one. The truth is, overusing technology can have harmful effects on our individual, societal and environmental health.
First of all, overusing technology has a damaging effect on us as individuals, in both a mental and a physical way. We take pleasure in our technology because we feel it creates a path of least resistance for our daily tasks. And as we all know, anything that a person can take pleasure in they can also become addicted to. This is often the case when it comes to our personal technology. Vehicles, cell phones, computers and other devices have all been found to create addictions within people. These addictions can hurt a person’s physical health when they overwhelmingly default to technology to get labor done, and they can hurt a person’s mental health by giving them errant ideas that they are not capable of completing a task without technology.
In a similar way, technology addiction is damaging to our societal consciousness as well. Tasks that people used to complete as part of a team are now completed by some form of technology, such as an assembly line of machines. This makes society dependent on technology and makes our human connections weak. Technology addiction also wreaks havoc on the health of our environment as only a small percentage of technology is considered sustainable. Most of our technology is still developed under the industrialism ethic of “the more production, the better,” making it focused on quantity instead of quality.
Addiction at a societal level is a different condition than addiction at an individual level. They are not understood in the same way and they have different types of effects. The primary difference between addiction at an individual level and addiction at a societal level is how they are acknowledged. For example, if one member of a family is struggling with alcoholism while no one else in the family is, it tends to be very obvious that the one person has a problem and needs to make changes to their lives. On the other hand, when society embraces a popular trend together as one, who is going to hold society accountable when the trend turns into an addiction?
Society’s dependence on technology is the perfect example of a societal trend turned addiction. Technology has always been a source of pride and competition to people. The nations that use more advanced technologies are considered more developed, and emerging technologies are frequently created under the pressure of competition, as there is prestige in being the first to invent something. We take immense pride and pleasure in our personal technology as a society. The problem there in is that we deny as a society that we are addicted to technology due to our collective unwillingness to separate from it. Group denial can be much more dangerous than individual denial.
When a society cannot recognize that it has an addiction to something, the society will become unsustainable and will experience a collapse. Addiction to money is what caused the recession of 2007, addiction to food is what has made the United States the most obese country on earth and the most prone to heart disease, and addiction to technology is having similar effects on North American society. We are becoming physically lazier as we rely on technology more and more, we are becoming more distant from one another as we focus more heavily on our relationship with technology than on our relationships with one another, and we are hurting the environment with the carbon emissions that unsustainable technology creates. If we do not rethink the role that technology is meant to play in our lives, our society will experience yet another collapse.
If North American society is going to end its collective addiction to technology, it must go against its individualistic nature and acknowledge that we have been in denial about our addiction to technology. Social scientists and psychologists have gradually been trying to warn us of our technology addictions by examining our overuse of cell phones and computers. The fact of the matter is, our over-reliance on technology is damaging on many levels and must be stopped by whatever means necessary.
Ending a collective, societal addiction is similar to ending an individual addiction. The first step is breaking the denial. A society that is not judicial about its own flaws is an unhealthy one. It is critical that we acknowledge our technology addiction before it does irreparable damage to ourselves as individuals, our societal relationships and to the environment we live in. The voices of reason that are pointing out our societal addiction must become louder, and those who have been reluctant to listen must be held accountable as part of a group.
Secondly, we must make efforts to change our thinking as a society. We need to be cognitive of which choices we are making that contribute to our technology addiction, such as overuse of our cell phones and vehicles. We need to make the decision to refrain from overusing these technologies in the future, perhaps by walking to the store instead of driving, or by setting rules down about our phone usage. We need to remain aware of our tendency to overuse the technologies in our lives and be cognitive of healthier thought patterns we can adopt.
And lastly, even once we have made changes to our lifestyles, we need to remember to support one another in the quest to liberate ourselves from technology and reach out for support when we are feeling weak. An addiction to technology may not be as severe as an addiction to a drug, but because it can still have serious ramifications, it should be taken seriously as an addiction.
Addiction to technology is a recent phenomenon, and a much debated one. Many question whether or not an addiction to technology is a real or imagined thing. When we consider the definition of addiction– a strong and harmful condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity – we can begin to understand why the question of technology addiction has arisen. Some addictions found in society are damaging to the individual and those close to them, while some addictions within society do minor damage to the individual but are widespread and have a damaging effect on humanity and the planet.
In 2006, United States President George W. Bush said “America is addicted to oil.” This would be a prime example of addiction to technology at a societal level. What he meant, of course, is that American industries are dependent on oil to make machinery work and American citizens are dependent on oil for their commuter vehicles. Cell phones and computers may also be thought of as technology addictions because people compulsively overuse them and because the energy they demand is unsustainable.
Our future depends on acknowledging large-scale societal addictions instead of denying them. The term “addiction” has long been stigmatized as a way of referring to one member of a group as the black sheep who has a “problem,” therefore society as a whole refuses to acknowledge the addictions within it, reasoning that if it is a widespread behavior, it is healthy. The truth is, if we do not collectively end our technology addiction, we will deplete our resources and severely damage the planet’s health. There are ways of drastically limiting our technology use, such as bicycle commuting and exercising impulse control over our cell phones and computers. In order to move our society away from its addictions, we need to acknowledge how we are addicted at an individualistic level and correct our addictive behavior by any means necessary.