The telephone. Modern medicine. Netflix. These are just a few of the marvels technology has brought us.
Technological advancements have changed the world in the last half-century, in ways our grandparents and great grandparents could have never imagined. We can cross the globe in under a day, we carry entire libraries worth of information around in our pockets, and we can have virtually all of our necessities delivered straight to our door.
With everything we need just the push of a button away, what’s the point of even going outside?
A video made by Nature Valley asks that very question. In the video, grandparents tell stories of their childhood, citing blackberry picking, fishing, and running around outside as some of their favorite childhood memories.
When today’s children were asked the same questions, they provided wildly different answers.
“Video games,” a boy said.
“Texting,” answered a girl. “I’d die without my tablet.”
Modern technology is helping raise an entire generation of kids quite literally attached to screens.
Modern technology is helping raise an entire generation of kids quite literally attached to screens, having never known anything else. This is worrying in plenty of ways: The smartphone phenomenon is so new, there’s no way for us to really know how hours of daily screen time affect a child’s development, social skills, and general outlook on life.
But we’d be remiss to simply to turn up our noses and pass off technology addictions and antisocial behavior as parenting problems that only affect the youngest generation: We, Millennials and adults, are just as affected.
Every day we text, tweet, facebook, snapchat, and email our way through life. Work-life balance and appreciation of leisure time have been destroyed because we can sign on from anywhere, at any time. Anything we could possibly want to read or watch can be downloaded or streamed without us so much as getting up off of the couch.
I couldn’t help but realize the irony this week as I finished work, got in my car to drive to the gym, and then simulated an outdoor run on a treadmill while firing off a couple of work emails. The entire process required me to spend a grand total of two minutes outdoors in an entire day. (In my defense…it’s pretty cold outside).
But is that the tech industry’s fault or my own? Do the creators of revolutionary technology have a moral responsibility to make sure entire generations don’t use it to ruin their lives?
Some activists think so.
“It will be a bright day for our profession when we start producing more engineers who…have the will and the intellectual capacity to engage with bigger questions about the ethics, politics and social ramifications of their inventions,” wrote Engineering professor Abbas El-Zein for The Guardian.
But, in the end, isn’t it the tech industry’s job to make things faster, easier, more convenient?
A level of social and moral responsibility should certainly be expected, particularly when creating products known to be addictive to users (I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft), but it would be silly to curse the miracle of technological progress just because we’re all spending too much time indoors.
So, maybe, the responsibility lies with us: To use technology for good and be conscious enough to recognize when it comes at a cost to our physical and mental health—to be active in keeping modern tech from controlling all aspects of our life.
Some good first steps:
1. Monitor your social media usage.
How much time do you spend on social media daily? If it’s more than a few minutes, it may be too much. Consider making certain parts of the day social network free, whether that be during your morning coffee or while relaxing at night.
2. Actively plan work time vs. leisure time.
While this is especially important for the self-employed, this applies to anyone and everyone: Leave work at work. Remember when we talked about hobbies? When you get home, do those instead.
3. Get outside as much as you can.
Find out what your city and state have to offer. Spring will (hopefully) be here soon, so on your day off go for a run outside, go on a hike, go to the park to read a book, or invite friends over for a backyard barbecue. Connect with your loved ones and with nature and, for the love of all things, keep your smartphone in your bag.