Technology’s ever-quickening pace raises questions about the effects the digital evolution is having on its users.
“As we become technologically savvy, we have to wonder that in the process, we simply are short-changing other types of skill development,” said BYU associate psychology professor Bruce Carpenter.
Android and iPhone advancements, for example, transforms what in the recent past was a portable phone into a powerful personal computer — that also has a phone app.
“Before when I had a flip phone, I didn’t really take care of it. But now that I have an iPhone, it’s a big deal,” said Justin Edwards, an exercise science major from Hurricane. He sees a link between the prevalence of smart phones and the emotional attachment he and others have with them. “People have so much information stored, and we rely on it a lot more.”
Shifting that reliance to an electronic device appears to have its down sides.
Carpenter cited recent findings by the New York Times that employers have noticed lower writing levels, problem-solving abilities and interpersonal skills among recent college graduates. “We have sped up our pace in society,” Carpenter said. “We’re less tolerant of things that develop slowly.”
Imbalanced media consumption can hamper the development of social skills and the ability to relate to other people. Fed by the immediacy of technology, people are becoming less patient completing simple tasks like waiting in line at an automated teller machine or speaking to another person face to face.
“That’s the way children are,” Carpenter said. “But perhaps we’re not socializing people beyond that to a more mature way of encountering the world.”
Carpenter emphasized that not all technology use is negative. “Some people have hit a good blend,” he said. “Not everybody’s affected.”
Licensed family therapist and BYU instructor Lori Schade said technology overuse impacts human behavior and resilience.
“It potentially is limiting people’s ability to tolerate highly emotional, difficult conversations,” Schade said, a licensed family therapist whose research on cell phone use and relationships has attracted national attention in recent months.
But in spite of the obstacles, the relationship between man and machines offers major benefits. Advances in the past 20 years provide opportunities that were unimaginable only a decade ago — facilitating communication, information access and the crossing of vast cultural and geographic barriers.
“Technology isn’t the problem,” Carpenter said. “It’s technology at the exclusion of other experiences.”