Over the past half a century, technology has advanced in more ways than one could have ever imagined. Information that might take hours to find in books can be found in seconds on the phone. Society changed immeasurably from popular hobbies to societal values. Computers, smartphones, and tablets are all items considered essential in today’s society. But are they really necessary? The effect technology has lasting impacts on society that aren’t necessarily positive. The myth of multitasking has appeared, and increased car accidents and obesity rates have emerged.
The multitasking myth has gained more credibility since the introduction of smartphones. Replying to constant notifications all while talking on the phone is something a multitasker prides their self in. But it’s a myth. According to psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor, everyone is serial tasking, “shifting from one task to another to another in rapid succession,” like emailing and checking social media (Taylor). In addition, those who claim to be great multitaskers aren’t. Studies found that self-proclaimed “chronic multitaskers made more mistakes, could remember fewer items, and took longer to complete a variety of focusing tasks analogous to multitasking,” than those who thought of themselves as occasional multitaskers (Taylor). The pseudo-multitaskers are perceived as more efficient, but in reality, they have trouble filtering out “past and no-longer-relevant information from the previous task,” (Taylor). Inefficiency is the result. Workers are more productive when they don’t check their email frequently, and children do better on homework when they aren’t watching television. Single-tasking is the solution which focuses on those essential to maximize performance (Taylor). Although it may not seem like a huge difference, in the long run, single tasking will improve efficiency. Multitasking is not real and therefore, doesn’t positively contribute to society.
Smartphones have also contributed to the increase in car accidents. Getting the notification of a snapchat or message and responding while driving is becoming a huge problem, especially among young adults. Since ‘multitasking’ is the new fad, people think they have the cognitive ability to focus on driving and their devices. Among adolescents, the number of cell phone related car accidents and deaths has increased so immensely that distracted driving was added to the driver’s education and the health class curriculum. Texting while driving is so prevalent that 42 states have made it illegal and 12 states have banned handheld devices while driving. Statistics from the National Security Council show the number of car accidents has increased recently, and about 26% of them are cell phone related (Kratsas). And hands-free features are not the solution. A National Security Council study rated cell phone-related activities on a cognitive distraction scale. Oddly enough, “driving and talking on a handheld phone has a 2.45 workload rating,” while the speech-to-text application has a 3.06 workload rating (Kratsas). The mental workload required for cell phone use while driving correlates to the multitasking myth.
Furthermore, technology indirectly increases obesity. By spending more time on devices, people are less active. Only your thumbs and possibly your wrists are getting some exercise, but the rest of the body isn’t. Exercise is crucial to living a healthy life. The more advanced technology gets, the less manual labor is required. Thus, people are more inclined to use it for their daily uses, eliminating the purpose to be active. As reported by the Milken Institute an independent economic research firm, “for every 10 percent rise in what a country spends on information and communications technology, there’s a 1 percent increase in obesity rates,” which is appalling you think of countries with a large population. The 1 percent change of obese people in China translates to 10 million people (Fox). Although the United States has a smaller population, the obesity rate isn’t much better. About 1 in 3 adults are obese in Americans (Fox). If the trends continue to stay the same, then the consequences could be detrimental. Adult obesity influences child obesity which is already a massive problem in America and healthy eating programs aren’t going to cut it. The amount of screen time must be limited to reduce the number on the bathroom scale.
Even though technology has its downfalls, there are positives to it. Technology and medicine have a direct relationship when it comes to new breakthroughs. According to Pugh, Emocha is an app, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to help fight opioid addiction. The app enables doctors to help remotely monitor and treat rural patients who “often have a difficult time managing their medications” (Pugh). Patients can “report cravings, side effects or other symptoms of addiction without compromising their privacy” and medical personnel can verify that patients took their medication by the videos patients send in (Pugh). Emocha could be crucial to rural Southern towns struggling with opioid issues; “22 of the 25 cities with the highest rates of opioid abuse” are all rural Southern towns and there aren’t enough “clinics to provide the necessary treatment” (Pugh). Although apps like Emocha can help advance the medical field, the increase in technology in our lives might not be good. The app could be misused, hacked or a number of things.
All of the negatives technology creates could easily be avoided if people use their devices wisely. It’s like eating sweets; they’re okay as long as they are consumed in moderation. Technology can be a good thing if it is used efficiently and safely. But when it’s used to increase obesity, car accidents, and multitasking, something needs to be changed. Whether the solutions are new regulations or laws, technology will continue to be a threat to society.
Fox, Maggie. “Spending on Technology Equals More Obesity, Study Shows.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 23 Aug. 2012.
Kratsas, Gabrielle. “Cellphone Use Causes over 1 in 4 Car Accidents.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 28 Mar. 2014.
Taylor, Jim. “Technology: Myth of Multitasking.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 30 Mar. 2011.
Pugh, Tony. “Technology could Help Opioid Addicts in Rural America..” McClatchy Washington DC News Bureau, 09 Nov, 2017.