Technology is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up; and the pace of change is setting us up for an anxiety-ridden society.
“If we’re in this mode of constant change, social anxiety increases,” says Bentley University professor Greg Hall, who teaches a Cyberpsychology course that explores how the pace at which technology advances -- without giving us a chance to adapt -- affects our sense of self. “We start with a historical look at technology, and then we demonstrate the length of time between a new technology and its penetration to the mass market.”
The culprit? The shift from evolutionary change to the much faster revolutionary change. Example: The original telephone remained relatively unchanged from the 1900s to 1980s (we had time to adapt!) versus today’s smartphones that are ready for an upgrade every two years (or less).
Our jobs move at such a rapid rate, do we understand what that pace is doing to us?
While Hall agrees that there are obvious benefits of technological advances, he says that we also need to recognize that its “psychological by-products” are real.
- Low Attention Span
Early research on multitasking shows that there’s a decrease in performance. The brain has certain limitations about how much information it can process simultaneously. “Students have told me that they can be texting and checking social media sites, while listening to a class lecture, but the brain doesn’t work that way,” Hall says.
- Decreased Patience
We expect instantaneous results. If you have to wait more than 30 seconds at the drive-thru for your burger and fries, you get frustrated. If a computer takes too long to boot up, we curse it. Road rage is becoming increasingly more common.
- Poor Social Development
Ever receive a text from someone sitting in the same room? Teens and 20-somethings prefer to interact through technology -- and they’ll tell you that. “Freshmen arrive at college to live with a roommate in a fairly small dorm room, and for most of them this kind of face-to-face interaction is new to them,” shares Hall.
Academically, a lot more can be asked of students in terms of information gathering and project turnaround time, given the tremendous amount of resources and data available on the Internet. However, the ability to transform information into knowledge through the process of analysis and synthesis is too often lacking.Socially, Pew Research Center reported that 88 percent of teen social media users believe people share too much information about themselves on social media.
- Skewed Reality
Social media paints a skewed perception of life. How many pictures on Instagram show your friend struggling over a stack of books before finals or scrubbing the toilet? Most of us only post the best-case scenarios: our children behaving, a new car or a vacation in the Caribbean.
- Dangerous Anonymity
Getting harassed online isn’t just for kids. Pew found that 40 percent of adult Internet users have personally experienced some kind of online harassment, most of it involving things like name-calling or attempts to embarrass someone. Read this Pew research for more about the dark side of menacing online behavior.
- Brief Shelf Life
The shelf life of knowledge is brief. Experienced employees often feel “behind the times” trying to keep up with technology, but even recent college graduates with technological expertise will be caught up in the hamster wheel of continual learning.
“Maintain balance with technology,” Hall suggests. “Disconnect occasionally to avoid the psychological reliance on your devices.”
Do you struggle with any of these problems? Learn five ways to reduce your tech anxiety.