While there are certainly positives to recent technological advances, including instant communication, an unlimited scope of information, and further medical research, there are many negative effects that cannot be ignored.
According to Psychology Today, in a recent study by Russell Clayton of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, two groups of college students were given word search puzzles. The first group was told to complete the puzzles with its participants’ smartphones in their line of sight. The second group, however, was told that the phones would interfere with the equipment in the experiment so they would need to be moved away from the testing area. Midway through the second group’s solving of the puzzles, the experimenter called one of the phones and let it ring for awhile before hanging up. Many of the students in that group were unable to focus from then on, becoming anxious and performing more poorly than the first group.
Use of electronics has also been known to lead to a decline in human interactions in favor of virtual reality. Rather than having real-life conversations, many express emotions and engage in deep conversations through texting, Instagram, and other social media sites. “If we are not careful about all these minor things right now, the effect in the future when this generation grows up is going to be much, much bigger,” said Health Economist and Milken Institute fellow, Anusuya Chatterjee, at a UCLA conference. In an interview with The New York Times, the social psychologist Adam Alter shared his view on the technology addiction that many people possess: “Today, we’re checking our social media constantly, which disrupts work and everyday life,” he says. “We’ve become obsessed with how many ‘likes’ your Instagram photos are getting instead of where we are walking and whom we are talking to.”
Technology addiction has also shown to lead to poor grades. Quite a few students use their phones and computers during class for non-academic activities. Many also procrastinate doing their schoolwork by surfing Netflix and Instagram.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block addressed the negative effects of technology at a conference, noting that, “Perhaps the most dramatic impact is the reduction in the amount of sleep.” The glow of smartphones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices lead to less production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. According to the Chancellor, this bright light can also lead to weight gain, as it decreases the amount of the hormone leptin in the human body, which makes people feel full, while simultaneously increasing ghrelin, the hunger causing hormone.
Technology is a great tool, however, it is important to recognize its downsides; lack of sleep, productivity and weight gain are a few. As Steven Spielberg described, “Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”