It doesn’t matter if you’re a cutting edge Silicon Valley mastermind or a Luddite in a log cabin in the middle of Montana, everyone will admit that technology has had a massive effect on 21st-century life. Some of these effects have had incredible benefits while others have led to unforeseen consequences.
For better or for worse, here are some of the biggest ways that technology has revolutionized, transformed, and generally changed our lives.
1. Always Connected
Once upon a time, if you were hiking in the woods or driving on a desolate country road, you were on your own. There was no AAA to call, or friend to text to help bail you out of the situationIf you rolled an ankle or ran out of gas, you had to find a way to get out of your situation without anyone’s help.
Now, tech has allowed us to remain safely and securely “plugged in” at all times. If you get lost, you can use a GPS to pinpoint your position and get out of trouble. If you have an emergency, you can use a smartphone to call for help.
Dangerous situations aside, the simple fact that you can start a video chat and interact with someone on the other side of the world in real-time goes to show how helpful 21st-century tech has been in keeping everyone connected.
2. Never Unplugged
Of course, the antithesis to the benefit of always being plugged in is the fact that it’s very difficult to ever truly be unplugged at this point. On the one hand, there’s the subtle fact that numerous apps and gadgets are always tracking your every move, listening to your conversations, sending you notifications, and generally gathering personal and often sensitive information.
On the other hand, technology has led to numerous cases of downright addictive behavior.
One study reported that roughly 3 out of 10 participants admitted that they were “almost constantly” online.
While technological addiction can be nasty, it is certainly a habit that can be broken. For instance, there are many apps that can combat smartphone addiction. There are even phones for kids that have been designed with things like text, phone, and camera functions but no internet access, specifically in order to avoid addiction in the future. With the huge presence tech has in our lives, teaching kids healthy tech habits young can only help.
3. Universal Information
Finding the solution to a problem used to consist of talking to a professional or reading a book. However, the advent of the Internet quickly created a massive bank of readily available information. It doesn’t matter if you have a leaky pipe, you’re going to school, or you’re interested in philosophy, the Internet will have a vast depository of information ready for you to dig into.
The only concern with this concept of universal, easily accessible information is the fact that, with so many contributors adding to the Internet (more on crowdsourcing further down), it can quickly blur the lines between who has authoritative information and who doesn’t.
However, if a savvy internet user takes a moment to research where information has been sourced from — such as from a prominent person in an industry or from a .edu website — they can determine if it is valuable or not.
The fear of missing out, or FOMO, isn’t anything new. Humanity has always struggled with the anxious thought of missing an important event. However, the internet age has exacerbated the collective struggle with FOMO in a serious way. In fact, people spend on average over 2 hours a day on social media alone in order to stay up to date and part of the conversation.
Thanks to modern technology, every social gathering, every major political episode, every event, activity, and experience is publicly broadcast online. From social media to news outlets, texts to notifications, a modern tech user is always aware of what they’re currently missing.
This struggle with FOMO can be countered by deliberately turning off unnecessary notifications, reducing apps on your mobile devices, focusing on the present, and cultivating an attitude of thankfulness.
5. Crowdsourcing Power
Once again, crowdsourcing has always been a human activity. However, it was given a steroid shot when technology — and the internet in particular — brought everyone together in the same virtual world. Now it doesn’t matter if you’re fundraising for a charitable cause, marketing a new product, promoting a political campaign, or creating a Wikipedia page on frogs, if you make it a collective endeavor, you can exponentially increase your productivity.
Not only that but when thousands and even millions of individuals are involved in a project, it can provide a unique sense of consistency and accuracy that may be difficult for a single individual to maintain.
6. Bad Blue Light
Many technological devices use blue light to display information. Over time and ever-increasing use, though, people have found that blue light can have a pretty dark side.
For instance, blue light at night can suppress the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin. In addition, there are professional suggestions that blue light may even be a distant contributor to major health conditions like cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Fortunately, the negative effects of blue light can easily be curbed by simply limiting how much time you spend on your devices. Setting a daily time limit, using a blue light filter, and turning your phone off an hour or two before bed can all help to decrease the impact that blue light can have on your health.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the negative effects of blue light, the power of a crowdsourcing campaign, a crippling fear of missing out, or the benefits of having a GPS during an accident, there are numerous ways that technology has changed our lives. Some of these changes have been incredibly positive. Others have been devastatingly negative. However, the one constant that we can count on is the fact that technology isn’t going anywhere, and it’s only going to continue to have a greater impact as time goes on.