Digital technology: Help or hindrance?

Digital technology has often been praised for improving people's lives. However, I think that it has disrupted our lives and values.

Because it can deliver instant results, digital technology has made us accustomed to seeing results almost immediately, reducing our attention spans and, ultimately, our patience.

According to a survey done by Microsoft, the average attention span of humans has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2015.

To put that into perspective, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

The survey also revealed that 77 per cent of people reach for their phones when they are bored.

According to another survey conducted by Google, 40 per cent of Americans use their phones in the bathroom. A Flurry's mobile analytics study has also revealed that adults, on average, spend roughly five hours on their phones daily. This can lead to a loss in productivity.

With the sharp increase in mobile usage over the past few years, people are constantly bombarded with digital distractions. This has led to less free time for people to pursue dreams, spend with loved ones and do other meaningful activities.

The use of social media is on the rise, leading to more people choosing to see the world through their phone screens and not enjoy the world as it is.

For instance, a sunset by the beach is no longer appreciated by someone sitting down and watching it but, rather, by the person taking numerous pictures of it with his phone.

In a nutshell, technology is like fire. Use it well, and the user shall be rewarded, but misuse it and it will take control.

What have humans become because of digital technology? I would say we have already been burnt by the fire.

Terence Teo Li Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'Digital technology: Help or hindrance?'. Print Edition | Subscribe