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Is digital technology disrupting our life and values, or is it creating new ways of living?

“The… increase in nervous disease is increased demand made by the conditions of modern life
upon the brain. Everything is done in a hurry. We talk across a continent, telegraph across an
ocean… we take even our pleasures sadly and make a task of our play…” - G. Shrady, 1896.

Firstly, it is key to acknowledge that the fear of “digital disruption” is in part due to juvenoia.
Every generation treats technological progress with cautious wariness, and understandably so.
Evolutionary psychology tells us that if the conditions of the previous generation allowed
reproduction, then any change might threaten that equilibrium. But as our world continues to
evolve faster and faster, this sentiment is no longer applicable. Our children and elders will live
in a world massively different to ours, and this is not alwayAs a bad thing. But did the Digital
Revolution take it too far?

This digital era has brought with it a plethora of wonders for humanity. The speed at which we
can communicate and connect is beyond anything our ancestors could have dreamed of. Things
like video games and VR bring with them new ways to experience storytelling and worlds,
allowing for a new layer of immersiveness. We can now not only hear and see stories play out in
front of us, but influence and interact with them. Information is free and accessible, the
knowledge of a thousand PhDs waiting at our fingertips.

Yet with all this power, why does depression positively correlate with internet usage? Why is the
risk of teen suicide linked to the use of smartphones? Why do lower GPA scores align with
higher social media usage? To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the answer is rarely plain and never
simple. But one of the primary factors causing this is also one of the greatest (dis)advantage:
speed.

The speed of digital technology is orders of magnitude faster than anything that came before.
With the flick of a wrist we can send a message, save a document and order a pizza, sometimes
all at once. But with this instantaneous gratification comes a price: dependency. The problem is,
almost nothing in the “real” world - relationships, career fulfillment, learning - happens that
quickly and easily. They require consistent time and effort put into them, both things that
technology saves us. After all, why spend the time and effort going out and searching for a
partner when you could simply swipe right?

This is the major reason why mental health issues and poor career performance correlate with
frequent technology use. The instant buzz of a smartphone is addicting, and that
addiction doesn’t allow us to practice the skill of patience, which almost everything in life
requires.

But the blame cannot entirely fall on technology. After all, we don’t blame the alcohol for our
inebriety. Technology is a tool; an enabler. We must remember that at the end of the day we are
the ones overusing it, overdoing it. Like alcohol, a little technology is fine, a lot can be fun, but
too much is unhealthy. Technology can and should enhance our lives, but it can disrupt it. It is
up to us to decide which.