• Ted Fraser

Digital Dash

Whether you’re a 55 year-old Blackberry enthusiast who just can’t assimilate into mainstream iPhone culture or an 8 year-old playing Minecraft on his mini iPad, chances are you spend a startling amount of time online or immersed in the digital world. Indeed, Pew Research Center has collected data showing that, for people aged 18-49, close to 98% of them have a cell phone. New advances in affordable, personal technology have improved almost all aspects of our lives, making it easier to communicate, learn, and, in general, more efficiently live our day-to-day lives.

Or has it? For all the benefits and conveniences of this new technology, we must consider the drawbacks. Of course having Google, YouTube and Khan Academy are beneficial to students. However, as New York Times columnist Matt Richel states, it is a double edged sword:

“Technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.”

The constant stream of information is both a blessing and a curse; we are able to learn and collect it rapidly and effortlessly, but because of its accessibility and frequency, it becomes harder to absorb and hold on to.

Some experts believe excessive use of the Internet, cell phones and other technology can affect our brain in a different way, causing humans to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic.

The effects on your physical and mental health are surprising and significant, as New York Times columnist Amy Cuddy states, “the slouchy, collapsed position we take when using our phones actually makes us less assertive and thus less likely to stand up for ourselves when the situation calls for it.”[2]

It doesn’t stop there, however. Scientists have pointed out the health implications of cell phone use in another aspect of our well-being: sleep. People are sleeping between one and two hours less compared to the 1960s. This is in part due to modern technology; falling prey to click bait ("15 Celebs with Unbelieveably Weird Body Parts"), or somehow ending up watching “Zoey 101 Stars: Where They Are Now” on YouTube or, say, having your funny bone tickled by Brent Rivera on Vine.

Technology as a whole is posing "serious health problems" as a lack of sleep raises the risk of cancer, heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity, according to researchers.

Additionally, social media has been proved to exacerbate and/or cause numerous mental illnesses, chiefly depression and anxiety.

In a paper written by Gwenn O’Keefe and Kathleen Clarke Pearson titled The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families, they report that “researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called Facebook depression, defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” The mere thought of the online world is “thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents.”

The seemingly innocuous effects of tweeting or MySpacing too much are evidently much more harmful and serious than many would first expect. In a country where climate change, terrorism and Shawn Mendes dominate the headlines, will this “first world problem” be overlooked? Not only are the individual costs serious, whether it be physically, intellectually, or emotionally, but the costs to society – lost productivity, increased health care costs, widespread mental illness – are just as worrisome.