My argument has always been that it is not technology itself, but rather the misuse of it, that is dangerous. The book I’m reading nowadays, Governing Electronically, has an excellent introduction on the debate between technological and social determinism, and the author (Paul Henman) does a good job of explaining how both perspectives are partially true and partially false. Intrinsically, neither society nor technology are evil. But the way they are currently intersecting has dangerous implications and the enthusiastic adoption of technology should be tempered by – to borrow a political phrase – ‘sober second thought‘.
This may seem incredulous coming from me, Nabeel, one of the most active users of social media
and someone who has been described as a techie, but I don’t see myself as defined by technology. I would rather think of technology as something that helps give me a competitive advantage.
The worry expressed by so many teachers is, of course, that the imbalance between physical and virtual worlds may result in competitive disadvantages, and I share that. A boy I know was once a cricketer of great potential, and over the past few years, I have seen his athletic ability wane as his Playstation skill has waxed. When he was only 8 years old, he could bowl properly – a measured run up and a beautiful smooth left-arm action. something that international cricketers sometimes struggle to achieve. Now he can do lots of cool things on a console, but hasn’t bowled in years. At the same time his weight has ballooned and his diet has been marked by the distraction that social media and the Internet help develop – substituting healthy home-cooked meals at regular intervals for snacks like chocolate milk and sandwiches at irregular intervals.
Of course this is hardly limited to a certain age group – to varying degrees, all Millennials on this side of the digital divide, myself included, are growing up in a Brave New World
(a simplified, cartoonized version of Neil Postman’s Orwell vs Huxley comparison
is particularly interesting), and so we must continue to be aware of the impacts of changing technology on our lives. Even if you’re the kind of person who abhors Facebook and only goes online when strictly necessary, you’re not immune and cannot escape from the changes in communication and media.
The lesson, as some have learned the hard way, is that moderation is king: be aware of what you are doing, stay in control of yourself. Easier said than done.