ARMSTRONG: Society should focus on balancing virtual with actual reality
Opinions Column: The Digital Dilemma
It is undeniable that in the last 10 to 20 years, the technology available within the United States has become a force to be reckoned with. From pagers and home phones in the 90s to the latest iPhone 7 and literally explosive Samsungs, we have changed life itself with these powerful, information-loaded micro-computers. Technology, the internet and social media have become integral parts of modern day society, and the question is: What kind of society have we created with technology and where does it leave us for generations to come?
Though the goal was for people to have the ability to communicate long distances (and that goal has been attained), the opposite effect has taken place — those in the same room are more isolated and distant than ever before. The subconscious, constant and never-ending call for entertainment — whether it be on Netflix or mindless Facebook browsing — has unfortunately replaced creative and innovative thought for most people. How often do you see someone on public transportation not on their phone? Buses are full of glowing faces, and riders only look up when they want to find out how far their destination is. While in conversation, most people attend to their text messages and emails, not valuing the person (and discussion) physically in front of them. I’m sure in the 80s or 90s, strangers, close confidants and family members interacted much more than we do today. Is talking to someone far away better than talking to the person right beside you?
Virtual reality has become more important than actual reality because of the addictive and all-consuming, euphoric nature of being online. There has been extensive research done on technological addiction and it is indeed classified as an addiction according to many scholarly articles. Can one honestly say that these extremely convenient advancements have left society in a better position than ever before? Some would say yes and some would say no: The answer to this question varies from individual to individual. Snapping a photo for Snapchat or Instagram is not that intrusive to some as it is to others. Though it is great that in the passing of a moment one could search for anything on the internet, at what cost is this luxury available? And does this cost provide requisite fulfillment?
Because of YouTube, Google, Instagram and many other websites, characteristics of presence and authenticity in an individual is a rare find for the simple fact that our online identities require almost all of our attention. We are called to be picture perfect versions of ourselves, leaving no room for self-discovery and ultimately no room for an expression of our genuine identity. It takes someone who has had enough of the information overload, the deceitful bio’s and text messages, the mind-numbing timeline scrolling to get out of that fatal internet-trance. Though most of these sites and platforms have definitely provided insight and inspiration to people to a short extent, it should be realized that there are things to look at outside of that finite screen — the sun, the sky and its clouds, the stranger looking at a book you are interested in, the person eating alone at lunch, a loved one. And the goal should not only be to look at these things, but admire and treasure them, for they truly feed the hunger of creativity and fulfillment we need. This entirely overpowers the instant gratification of shallow internet constituents.
Though this can be considered a rant, consider this food for thought and a possible wake-up call. I do not and cannot deny the fact that technology has been a blessing to society in terms of educating people about what is going on in the world and shedding light on the good in people, but there is an imbalance. In the user manuals of our smartphones and laptops, there should have been an educated recommendation for what the time limit to use them for should be. Not everyone can balance virtual reality and actual reality. And the people who cannot balance these two realities seem to be the majority of society. Are we getting the help that we need? I do not expect everyone to be like me in the way I have deleted my social media platforms, or limit how many times I check my email in a day. But I hope that I have fulfilled my goal, that you would ponder the way you use your technology and be honest with yourself if you need rules.
Yazmin Armstrong is a School of Engineering junior majoring in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Her column, "The Digital Dilemma," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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