Opinion: We should not depend too much on technology


Photo illustration by Daniela Perez

In this day and age, it seems as though there is an app or website for everything. People depend on technology for waking up, work, entertainment, tracking eating and fitness, communication and to help with mental health wellness. Resorting to technology to make all of these activities possible makes us far too dependent on it to satisfy our needs.  A couple of weeks ago, I double checked my alarms on my iPad every night to make sure they would wake me up at 6:00 a.m. and then used it the next day to set reminders and take notes. Unfortunately, I realized that when iPad died at school, I had nothing to work with, which annoyed me, but at the same time, I was glad to spend some time away from the screen.

Storing memories, dates and locations you want to remember in a device may seem convenient, but studies have found that when doing so, you are more likely to forget the information because you know that you can look it up. A survey conducted by Panda Security determined that 32% of Americans have digital amnesia — a phenomenon that occurs when technology is used as a memory tool. Storing less information in the brain naturally results in a lack of strong connections.

If devices are frequently used to do basic activities, then they have to be used for a prolonged period of time. I experienced short term effects including eye strain and headaches when studying online. Long term excessive use alters the way we respond to our environment. A study conducted by the NIH found that excessive screen time was correlated with reduced white and gray matter volume in the brain. Damage to the white matter that transmits messages between the brain and body and gray matter that processes them decreases cognitive function. Furthermore, using electronics at night interferes with the sleep cycle, increasing chances of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. 

Along with the multitude of information that digital technology provides come a multitude of distractions. It takes longer to finish tasks when your brain has to multitask between different apps and find the exact thing you are looking for when there are so many sources. When I research news articles for assignments, I often see ads about health advice for seniors and buying solar panels that make it hard to concentrate. 

In the future, a lot of inventions that do simple tasks for people are anticipated, but technology should be used to solve bigger issues. Why should people have machines that prepare salad and take out their trash can for them when 30 to 40% of food in the United States is wasted and the trash is improperly disposed of? Technology should reduce the negative impact we have on the planet, not exacerbate it.

Digital advancements have also sped up communication, but they pose challenges including misinformation and privacy. At a global level, relying greatly on this form of communication threatens human rights and trust. A researcher at Dartmouth, Luke Stark, said he worries digital communication will interfere with human connection because many of the interactions online are monitored to increase economic productivity. 

People should limit the time they spend on their devices by finding other ways to be entertained. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time for entertainment should be limited to two hours or less per day. Instead of being on technology, we can participate in active entertainment where we interact with our surroundings, such as playing a sport or instrument, to stimulate our senses. In-person, verbal communication should be used when possible to optimize the natural exchange of ideas. Additionally, important information such as phone numbers and common destinations are better stored as a memory that can be recalled later. Taking notes on paper is not only another way to reduce technology use; studies have shown that it is a better method of retaining information. 

It’s important to reduce our dependence on technology to avoid suffering the effects of overuse or difficulties associated with not having them. It’s important to be mindful about the types of tasks we can and can not do without our devices.