Technological Dependence, eLearning Initiatives, And Unstoppable Change
Jakub Zak/

Has Technological Dependence Changed Our Culture?

Ever since technology began infiltrating seemingly every aspect of the human experience, people have been worried about the effects that are being wrought on our species. Screens specifically have enchanted us for years, and they’ve only multiplied as time has gone on, both in the number of them that permeate our lives and the amount of time we devote to them. In fact, it’s been estimated recently that Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time.

Nevertheless, we’re still not quite sure how this fixation, this exorbitant amount of time spent in front of screens and technology, is affecting us overall.

As such, in late July, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet introduced new legislation that would give $95 million to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for the study of technology’s impact on infants, children, and adolescents.

“Called the Children and Media Research Advancement Act, or CAMRA for short, the bill would see that money distributed over the next five years, to researchers studying how things like mobile devices, social media, and virtual reality affect the way kids think, grow, and socialize,” writes Robbie Gonzalez with Wired. “The NIH currently devotes little money to the investigation of technology's role in dependence, mental health, and childhood development… 95 million dollars could change that in a big way, if the bill becomes law.”

Let’s take a look at the concept of technological dependence in adults and children, and how that has affected our society for both better and worst.

Technology’s Undeniable Influence

Whether we’re suffering from widespread technological addiction is up for debate — but it’s an absolute certainty that we’ve been radically altered as a people, especially in just the last 20 years, by digital devices.

“Digital distraction has been blamed for a range of ills, from ruining dinner-table conversation and disrupting sleep patterns, to interfering with children’s education and contributing to an increase in anxiety and depression — even putting young people at higher risk of suicide,” write Tim Bradshaw and Hannah Kuchler for FT. “In June, the World Health Organization created a new classification of ‘gaming disorder’, to describe people whose personal or professional lives have seen ‘significant impairment’ due to excessive video gaming.”’

Other groups like RCA have pointed out that there may be connections between depression, drug addiction, and social media culture, using the death of the rapper Lil Peep as an example.

“We’ve witnessed and grieved overdose deaths among the rich and famous for a long time, but what makes Lil Peep’s situation particularly impactful for many is his use of social media,” they write. “The video he took depicting himself taking the drugs garnered over two million views in just a few hours—all before the media even announced his death.”

Lastly, we know that, on the one hand, the heightened rate of technology-use can affect us physically in negative ways ranging from the onset of conditions as benign as digital eye strain and as serious as chronic sitting in front of computers and screens. So is technology just a dangerously addictive vice that we are slowly losing control over? Or is there any good that can come of the digital attachments we’ve cultivated over time?

Society’s Tech Addiction: A Force For Good?

While we know and acknowledge that technology can have negative effects on human health, we also have to look at the positive effects that such prodigious technological integration can have.

“Telemedicine has become a way of connecting patients and healthcare providers… Apps and wearable trackers are also helping healthcare professionals stay updated on their patents’ conditions,” write the experts at ASU online. “Not only is the technology helping to treat existing conditions, but aiding in prevention as well.”

In the same way that technology dependence can both help and harm human physical and mental health, some believe that societal and educational issues might also be solved by a sort of “wrangling” or “manipulation” of tech addiction. This isn’t too far from a call for wide-spread acceleration of eLearning principles and protocols.

“There’s no returning to the pre-tech era, so the government should consider leveraging the science behind what Silicon Valley calls “brain hacking” to create, capture, and cultivate audiences,” writes Shane Tews for AEIdeas. “Persuasive technology is a huge business, so why not consider public-private partnerships similar to the government’s past initiatives with Ad Council campaigns on topics such as vehicle safety, food waste, littering, and opioid abuse?“

While it seems like a good idea on paper, we must remind ourselves that we haven’t fully explored or studied the effects of technological adoption in our society; we’ve only proposed to so far.

We need to conduct more studies on a much larger scale than we already have so that we may work out all the kinks associated with our technological and digital dependences. This is essential so that we may learn to wield our tools as effectively as possible before they consume us completely — and consume us they will, in a wave of unstoppable change, if we’re not careful.

In the end, we can absolutely turn our affinity for technology into a strength, rather than a weakness. It may take some time, but there’s no stopping it. Technology will change the face and actions of mankind forever. How that change manifests itself is ultimately up to us.