Balancing technology use in a digital world

Technology, where would we be without it? Tech giants such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have revolutionized the way we work, the way we communicate and the way we live.

Products such as laptops, iPhones and various social media sites play an important role in our everyday living, but according to MIT professor Sherly Turkle, it is taking over our lives, to a greater capacity than we might think. In a TED Talk she gave in 2012, Turkle discusses the fact that people text and send emails during corporate board meetings, shop online while in class and even send text messages while making eye contact with other co­-workers .

Turtle exclaims, “In a world, where how we are more connected than ever before, we are some how even less connected than we were before. We live in a society where people want to control where they put their attention, you want to go to that board meeting, but you only want to pay attention to the things that interest you.”

While Turkle seems to think that our excessive use of technology is going to be the downfall of our society, An Information Media professor at SCSU holds a different perspective on how to resolve the digital divide.

Plamen Miltenoff has been studying information technology for over a decade and while he agrees with the research showing that technology can lead to fatigue, lack of motivation and depression, he believes technology and the way we use it plays a vital role in our society.

“Sherly Turkle treats millennials like they’re addicted to their phone and she’s right, they are addicts, but we want to take more of an approach to contemplative computing.” Contemplative computing is the way we can use technology to be more mindful and productive rather than being a distraction.

Miltenoff explains that we live in a world now where it is almost impossible to go into any kind of job and not be subjected to using some form of new gadget, gizmo, or even social networking sites and other programs that are supposed to expand and enhance communication in the workplace. “We need to teach the millennials how to manage their time effectively,” said Miltenoff. “It seems that once we are handed something as powerful and convenient as an iPhone or an Android, we don’t teach ourselves self-discipline.”

Even with excessive technology use being such a huge problem in the United States, little research has been done to find a solution.

“The reason why there is no research being done is because there hasn’t been any history of the problem to do a study on,” said Miltenoff. “In 10­-15 years, there will be a repercussion among the millennials and they will start to feel the effect in one way or another.” Professor Miltenoff describes some of these issues as obesity, poor eyesight, back and neck problems due to looking down at your phone all of the time.

While no research has been done, Miltenoff did say that companies in Silicon Valley like Google, Facebook and Amazon are starting to realize that there might be some repercussions when it comes to excessive technology use. These companies are trying to find some simple ways to give their employees a break from the computer screen.

Google has rooms where their employees can take a 10-minute nap in order to take their eyes off of the computer screen.

“Emotional health is important too,” Miltenoff said. “I see people, even on the campus of SCSU go and pray in the back rooms at the library. Whatever students can do to redeem themselves without an electronic device in front of them is very helpful.”

Even though Google and Amazon may be fortune 500 companies, Miltenoff is trying to find ways to bring effective disconnect strategies to SCSU.

“There should be some kind of yoga class that we can have for students to take, or a meditation class, just find a way for students to get away from the screen for a little while so when they have to get back and use it for their classes and other various assignments; they’re able to get right back on track and work more productively.”

As the digital divide still continues to split our society, there may be hope for the future, if people are willing to recognize the problem and find an effective solution.

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