The world has been innovating at a rapid pace over the past 20 years like no other time in history. Technological advances have created the likes of companies such as Uber, Task Rabbit and Airbnb. In this new connected society we now have new powerful social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. We have everything that we ever wanted to know at our fingertips with tools such as Google. We have new communication tools such as email, text messaging, Twitter, Snapchat, What’s App, or Skype. We are seeing the reduction of brick and mortar stores, slowly being replaced by online Mega Stores suchs as Amazon, Alibaba, and Priceline, driving down prices. Traditional television is being replaced by the likes of Netflix and YouTube.
These changes have removed the gatekeepers from a number of industries. You don’t require a publisher to sell a book, you don’t need a record label to sell music, you don’t need to be a journalist to publish news. Soon we may not need banks to transfer money with the introduction of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
With all of these changes in our society, you would think that the results have all been for the betterment of us all. After all, our lives are more efficient now, are they not? We have more time on our hands, don’t we? More jobs have been created, have they not? The information and news flow in the world is more transparent isn’t it? The internet, ipads and iphones have produced better educated children haven’t they? People are generally happier now that they can have what they want when they want it, aren’t they? We think the jury is probably still out on all these points because the truth is, the reality has not lived up to all the promises.
While we can translate smartphones and the Internet as tools of efficiency, these efficiencies have in fact made people’s lives more sedentary, which in turn has a negative impact on health. The message always seems to be that you don’t have to move from your seat, just press a button and the world comes to you. Search the net for the best buy, get it delivered right to your door. Buy your groceries online and have them delivered to your door. Find the best restaurant nearest you.
Why go outside to play sports when you can play them online? Playing sports outside now seems so strange. Intead of actually playing sports, people are sitting down and playing them on their screens. Multiplayer used to be real interaction between people. Now you sit alone in a cyber world and pretend that you are really interacting with people. This is causing psychological problems of isolation. In addition, the amount of violence steaming across our screens has reached never before seen levels. This is is causing us to become desensitized to it, which we wrote more about here.
Now that we spend so much of our time looking down into these smartphones, people are starting to experience new kinds of aches and pains. Just recently a study showed that smartphone related neck pain has been on the increase. According to a study at Harvard Medical School, researchers found that reading e-books had an adverse impact on “overall health, alertness and the circadian clock, which synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues”
We have highlighted here how google search is modifying our brain’s ability to think and how our attention spans are being slowly eroded. Having all the answers at your fingertips seems to be removing the need to think about problems. As the old saying goes, “use it or lose it,” as it applies to our brains in this case. We wrote about the social media casino here, explaining how big social media companies are manipulating our brains so that we stay longer on their platforms. This increases their revenues while at the same time they are creating problems of smartphone addiction among the masses.
The new world of text messaging and Snapchat has done nothing for english spelling skills. Texting has become any every day task that many teenagers engage in on a day to day basis. Many of those text messages that are sent often contain textisms. The use of textisms is starting to become more accepted among the younger generation. There are now worries from both media sources and educators that texting may have a negative effect on the literacy skills of students. In addition, the constant scrolling and texting is causing increasing cases of repetitive strain injuries.
In a always connected world there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to hide. If you want to use the technology you have to give something up. That something is your privacy. Long gone are the days of having an unlisted telephone number and staying offline to keep your information safe from prying eyes. It doesn’t take much effort to find anyone’s address and contact information. We can go on google and basically stand infront of a 3D picture of their house. People don’t seem to worry about letting this technology track every move they make, freely giving out their location on Google Map and putting their entire life story on Facebook.
We keep making things smaller and thinner giving the impression that it is saving room but at the same time we are producing more and more gadgets that don’t provide much more than the ones you already posses. Think about all the families with multiple gadgets doing the same things. Televisions, that now come with access to the internet, computers, iPads, big smartphones, smaller smartphones, iPods etc..
The companies producing these products, want you to have all of them and repurchase them as often as possible. For this reason we have multiple upgrades with very little value added with each one. If your smartphone, ipad or television breaks, getting it repaired is no longer even an option. We used to have an industry built on reparations. Now it would cost you more than the price of the product to get it repaired, so we dispose of the old one and purchase a new one. This is creating huge amounts of waste in our environment. It is dding to the current levels of toxicity in our air and land. These products are rarely disposed of properly, causing deadly chemicals to leak into the ground. Companies in Asia that manufacture the electronics are not properly regulated and therefore have been responsible for emitting toxic fumes into the air.
This new economy has changed the face of the middle class and consumerism in general. Americans now owe more than ever before, with household debt hitting a record of nearly $13 trillion. And auto loans, home loans and credit card debt are all still on the rise, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While at the same time, the richest 1% now own more than half of all the world’s household wealth, according to analysts at Credit Suisse (These millionaires – who account for 0.7% of the world’s adult population – control 46% of total global wealth that now stands at $280 trillion. At the other end of the spectrum, the world’s 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000. Collectively these people, who account for 70% of the world’s working age population, account for just 2.7% of global wealth).
So are we living a better life? You be the judge.