Over exposure to gadgets, web content, games, and high-tech devices gives way to deficits that interfere with daily actions, interpersonal relationships, conversations, and memory. Technology is an advancement, but at what expense to social interactions? Human beings are a social race, and technology can give us the social connections that we need. Problems arise when the technological influences replace face to face contact. Studies reported in the American Psychologist by William Scherlis in his report “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement And Psychological Well-Being” have shown that “greater use of the internet was associated with declines in participants’ communication with family members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their depression and loneliness.”
Physical interaction is essential for the human race. This interaction promotes bonding in any relationship dynamic. Societies are built on the bonds of relationships. When these bonds are not present, it is feared by some that virtual societies will over encompass physical contact thereby causing a disabling effect in the routine of human interaction. It is public knowledge that historical studies of infants who were not physically interacted with from their birth displayed characteristics of withdrawal, failure to thrive, and social problems later in life. It is imperative that physical contact be the preference over technology.
Technology has played an important role throughout the last few decades in the decline of interpersonal relations. If an observer recognizes the historical complaints of wives who have husbands who watch sports, the wives felt overlooked, and sensed that the husband was disinterested in them in favor of television programming. Now that technology is so advanced, spouses can find more ways to be antisocial with each other spending most of their time on computers and gadgets. They are social networking with everyone including those who are closest to them. This epidemic of physical antisocial behavior is not exclusive to spouses. Entire families are entangled with their own intrapersonal high-tech world, and through it are relating by means of simulated socialization. Family members are not finding time for face to face encounters because it is so much easier just to send a text from the living room to the bedroom because devices are always active in the household. This causes an insufficiency in the social unifications of the family and its’ communication.
Children absorbed in technological devices at early ages are not having face-to-face dialogues. They are not looking people in the eye, or noticing verbal cues. These are central social skills that evolve over time. It is further evident when the child literally is unable to contribute to a lengthy conversation; the child is not physically or mentally engaged with the person they are talking to. The child then displays behaviors of impatience and wandering eye contact that is synonymous with attention deficit issues. As technological advances have broadened, most adults are beginning to fall into this category of impatience during face to face discussions. All of these issues affect social relationships, especially when a person is prone to an addictive personality.
Research reported in the Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences article “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Symptoms And Internet Addiction” by In Kyoon Lyoo suggests that fast paced technological gratification can lead to addiction, and that “internet addiction may be a compensatory activity for poor social skills, interpersonal difficulties, and the lack of pleasure in the daily lives of children with ADHD.” Those children and adults presenting underlying problems with social interactions can somewhat profit psychologically from the social interactions of computer games where they can essentially ‘become’ someone who is socially acceptable. Childhood has always been an agonizing process socially. Living behind a virtual mask, or avatar, does promote some instances of a sense of ones’ true self. A person can become a front stage hero to virtual friends when this feat is impossible in face-to-face interactions. This is an invisible perception as it imparts a sense of falsehood not consistent with honestly measured social identity. These falsehoods do not camouflage the individuals’ socially inept behavior when it comes to face to face contact, nor is it a cure for low self-esteem. Self-actualizing characters only promote an increased withdrawal from society, and if left to combine with despair, could possibly result in egotistical suicide-like behavior.
In the teenage years, lack of empathetic abilities and complex reasoning skills of an immature brain are obvious, teens are inclined to be self-centered and seek immediate gratification. They are not capable of indiscriminate empathy, which is a characteristic developed over time through social contact. Technology is related to development of specific skills through online instruction and information. However, it is also causing an overabundance of brain activity that is essentially equipping the brain to effectively process fast paced visual stimulus. This would be a constructive skill if social interactions were visually fast paced like that of video games, yet they are not. Social interactions are reciprocal in measured forms. Dependencies on rapid paced processing lead to the displeasure of social interactions. The physical non-technological world relies on processes that are lethargic when compared to the world of technology. Just think about waiting on a person who has slow speech pattern to finish their point when you are having a face-to-face conversation. The wait can be grueling. Technology gives instant gratification, and the result is an emerging personality that is addicted to that instant gratification which manifests in annoyed and impulsive behaviors. In Newsweek, July 2012, Tony Dokoupil reported in his article “Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?” that we are becoming more impulsive “and one reason for this is technology use.” There is a 66% rise in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis in the last decade, and “there is a cause and effect.”
No one source has stressed that technological devices are detrimental. Gaming enhances visual performance, and technology overall contributes to widespread multi-tasking abilities. However, it is accentuated in many studies that over-exposure does not have many preferred results particularly in the collective domain in which we all must co-exist socially. No extensive long term studies have been reported on the effects of this fast paced visual stimulation. We do know that it does affect social interactions in many ways including face to face conversation, interpersonal relationships, and intrapersonal issues such as attention deficit. In a Newsweek International interview titled “Too Much Information,” Jonathan Adams reported, “It’s not clear what role electronic media may play in the near-epidemic proportions of attention deficit disorder among school-age children. Does the youthful brain raised on a diet of overstimulation adapt, and even thrive? Yes and no. Kids are getting better at paying attention to several things at once, says Patricia Greenfield, director of the Children’s Digital Media Center at UCLA, but there is a cost, in that you don’t go into any one thing in as much depth. This is one problem technology has surely helped create. With luck, one day it will help solve it.” The social expense of too much reliance on technology is just beginning to materialize. We do not know the long term extent of emotional defect caused by technology. Perhaps as current generations of technology children rise in age we will be able to understand the impact.