Is society addicted to technology? Not really

Is society addicted to technology? Not really

Summary: The age-old question as to whether we as a society are addicted to technology is solved in 300 words. No, we're not, and this is why.

TOPICS: Telcos

I was interviewed over the weekend for a documentary exploring whether or not the Generation Y are addicted to technology -- or influencing the rest of society's addiction. While at first I was pro-addiction, I started to realise half way through that I was wrong.

Think about it. Since the late 60's and early 70's, the so-called "Information Age". we have been exposed to more technology than society had ever seen before, even taking into account the internal combustion engine in the Industrial Revolution. The revolution of email to social networking alone has shaped how we communicate and act around each other.

This, spurred on by my generation. We've grown up with technology so we know little difference. We're still aware of Google Maps vs. an atlas, or AA driving directions vs. a street map, and Wikipedia vs. an encyclopedia, but we use the former as they are more convenient. It doesn't mean we would rage into a blind panic at the thought of using a book.

The best analogy to consider is the car. We get in our car in the morning, we drive to work, park up and work, only to drive back home and repeat on a daily basis. If the car breaks down, we call the mechanic to fix it or we look for similar but other routes such as the bus, the tube, the train or by walking.

The same is with technology. If our phone breaks, we repair it or find another - a friend's phone on loan or we use a landline, or some other form of communication. We only seem to notice these things when they're not with us.

Society may seem addicted to technology but it is simply how we have evolved. Even most of those who spend hours on end on computer games are not addicted to them. We use it more than ever but it is a socially constructed concern that we use it too much.

The only worry is if something like a nuclear blast causes an electromagnetic pulse which wipes out all silicon chips, but even then we'll have more things to worry about... such as being blown into our own shadow. Swings and roundabouts.

Do you think society is addicted to technology?

Topic: Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Actually Yes i Do

    I am a Gen Xer and tech geek. I believe that the younger gens are definitely addicted to technology. If you take a look around kids cannot get the face out of there cell phones and there is a constain beeping dinging etc. I mean go to a mall or movie theater. I think we will start to see more and more younger being tech addicts and be in tech rehab by the time they are 16.
  • re: Do you think society is addicted to technology?

    Younger generations - absolutely
    Older - not as much.

    My parents (in their 70's) are trying to get involved because they think they need to.

    I (in my 40's) use it as a tool because I have to.

    My kids (teenagers) start having withdrawal symptoms on camping trips.
    • Older generation...

      Haven't grown up with it, so there are obvious alternatives. Not so much with the younger generation. But should there need to be withdrawl?
  • Yes really!

    As early as the the ninties. I was talking to a store clerk when a college age person walked up to us and asked if we had the time. The store clerk held out his arm so this person could see his watch. Again this person asked what time it was. We looked at them with surprise, and the explaination? They had always grown up with digital clocks and the store clerks watch was analog. This person could not tell time.

    As technology replaces manual effort (physical or mental) we loose those abilities from atrophy or don't learn them at all. So when your car breaks down what happens when there is no one or no way, to call someone to fix it. When the car fails and then the phone fails and then the flashlight fails and your all alone in the dark. What will you think of your technology then?
  • Depends on how you define technology

    I assume your use of the term "technology" really means "consumer electronics".

    My definition of technology is much more broad:
    The branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science.

    By this definition, anything that man creates to "amplify" his capabilities is a technology. This starts with agriculture (invented more than 10,000 years ago) which is a set of technologies that amplify the amount of food available and make it possible for most people to not have to produce food (by hunting and gathering).

    By this definition we are definitely addicted to technology.

    While most technologies are commonly looked upon as beneficial, global warming is one indicator that technology has become a liability to the continued survival of our species.

    And it all started with the technology of agriculture enabling unbounded population growth.
  • One Must Understand...

    that the author has never know a world without:

    Personal Computers
    Personal music players
    Cable TV
    DVD's or VHS tapes
    Cell Phones
    Touch-tone Phones
    Microwave ovens
    Battery powered wrist watches
    Color TV
    Ball point pens
  • Is technology good for society?

    My 12 and 13 year olds are pining for cell phones and Ipod touches (even though they have a Nano) because ALL their friends have them (and they do!) What does a grade 4 student need a Blackberry for? These are the things that have become the standard. Kids are on Facebook all the time. Addicted? Perhaps. Unhealthy would be a better term. Tuned out and antisocial also come to mind. It really ruins family time with everyone's face buried in a screen somewhere. We have a lot more fun and build better relations when things get turned off and we interact.
    Truthfully, I know that I'm often more productive when the electronics get turned off. My mom, who is 80, absolutely loves her computer. I'm thankful she didn't have one when I was growing up!
  • RE: Is society addicted to technology? Not really

    When I was an undergraduate student at Illinois Institute of Technology (Bachelor of Science, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 1971), I didn't even have an electric typewriter, let alone word processing. I used a slide rule and math tables. "Computer" meant a mainframe where you submitted punch-cards. Often you had to run a program repeatedly to find and correct all the bugs.

    I am grateful for being in a better position to appreciate all that technology has made possible in the past 40 years, in contrast to those born after 1980 who have no idea what it was like to do a homework assignment without even a calculator (let alone a personal computer equipped with MATLAB), and to have to type it up using a manual typewriter. And yes, I also remember writing homework assignments with just a pen and paper.

    But believe me, I have NO desire whatsoever to return to the way it was before calculators (our first "personal computers", come think of it), and all that came afterwards.
  • No addiction

    Genuine addiction implies serious physical symptoms when the addicting substance is withdrawn. I agree with Zack: society is not addicted. Even areas where we seem to need technology most, we manage to muddle on without it when we have to.
    • Are you sure that applies?

      You just described the definition of a chemical addiction. I'm not sure that really applies in this case. There are other types of behavior that are classified as 'addiction' - such as a gambling addiction. Here is the definition of 'addiction' - from

      the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

      Given that definition, I think the question is "How well do people cope when technology is taken away?"

      It's easy to make a general statement here, but be careful. I know a person who literally broke down in tears when (his/her) computer wouldn't boot. This person had absolutely no idea what to do without the computer and wanted me to drop everything I was doing to fix the computer right away. I didn't have time.

      The fallback: after calming down slightly this person reverted to watching hours of television/movies - another technology.

      I think that kind of reaction, while probably not typical, constitutes 'trauma.' Now, I don't think most people would react in quite so extreme a fashion, but I think quite a few teenagers would be totally lost if you took away their television, video games, cell phones and computers. Dinner and live conversation is so 80's ;)

      Incidentally, the person who had this traumatic reaction was not a teenager.
  • Just watch a 16 year old try to calculate change.

    Here's a test for you. Walk into your local Walmart. Make a purchase that adds up to an odd amount like $6.78, hand the clerk a $10.00 bill. After they have opened the register drawer say, "Just a sec" and hand them 3 pennies. Watch the look of sheer panic as they try to figure out how much change they now have to give you and the looks of complete confustion as you explain that this way you get a $3.25 instead of $3.22 back.
  • RE: Is society addicted to technology? Not really

    You talk about landlines and motorcars as though they are not "Technology".... In the early 20th century, all these things were only available to the moneyed few. They have become an essential part of our lives, much as the latest technology will become an essential part of our lives now and in the future.
    And it is not really an addiction, it just becomes the norm.
    Barry ZA
  • AA?

    I was really confused why you would want driving directions
    from Alcoholics Anonymous, but then a quick googling set me
    right. You brits and your strange geographically-oriented web
  • RE: Is society addicted to technology? Not really

    We cannot just consider the current Gen X but we should also take into account Gen Y which are very much addicted to technology.
    Hardik Upadhyay
  • RE: Is society addicted to technology? Not really

    I've seen a lot of responses centered around the idea of what is or is not technology.

    If you're using the term 'technology' in the broadest sense, there really isn't any part of our lives that isn't interconnected with technology in some way.

    However, that said, I believe the author is really limiting his discussion to consumer electronics - video games, cell phones, computers, etc. And the point that's being made really has more to do with human interaction.

    Many people (teenagers especially) spend so much time in front of their computers and cell phones that live, one-on-one conversation that doesn't involve some sort of communications device in the middle is becoming rarer all the time.

    Almost as bad is that I can't even seem to have conversation with my nieces and nephews (and a few other people as well) where we are actually listening completely to each other. They are usually juggling 3 or more conversations with their friends via text messaging while talking to me.

    What's even worse (to me anyway) is that I find myself being expected to do the same thing. My 40 year old sister can't seem to understand why I turn my cell phone off in the evening or why I wouldn't want to be reachable 24 hours a day.

    Don't get me wrong. I love my technology. I've always been the gadget person. But I can turn it all off and walk away from it and I frequently do. That ability seems more and more rare all the time.
  • RE: Is society addicted to technology? Not really

    I hate to break it to you all, but there is this thing called Oil which we make gas, toothpaste, fertilizer, paint, glue, and every plastic product from. It is finite and we just humbly go along thinking its infinite and we can have infinite growth in society and industry. And there is no viable alternative yet for it. Our whole world runs on the stuff. Some people say we can run out in 20-30 years. So, unless you like iPods made out of coconuts, EVERYONE addicted to technology will be in for a very rude awakening very soon.
  • Is society addicted to technology? Not really

    Thanks for your sharing. I find it very useful. All of us should join now to comment to make life better.
    <a href="">photographer in Cleveland</a> <a href="">driving schools in Durham</a>
    <a href=""> divorce attorney in St Louis</a>
    <a href="">day care in Fremont</a>
    <a href=" "> Carpet cleaning in Colorado Springs</a>