Disruption or blessing? That is indeed the question

Aug 01, 2019   |   Hai Oufan

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In order to buy an iPhone, would you sell one of your organs?

Maybe you wouldn’t, but someone did. The unfortunate incident happened in 2012. According to BBC News, a teenager in China sold one of his kidneys illegally to buy an iPhone 4S and an iPad 2. Even though this incident is an isolated case, digital technology has indeed affected our values and lifestyles in unimagined ways.

When we talk about digital technology, it is impossible not to mention social media, which has created new values and ways of living. Many publish minute details of their lives on social media platforms; “likes” and “followers” have become yardsticks of popularity. You may wonder if social media is disruptive?

Well, the simple answer is: it depends.

People using smartphone at train station Source: Pexels.com

Social media can a blessing, so much when our communication is no longer confined by time and space.

Want to meet your old friends across oceans? No problem, give them a Skype call. Talk to your parents when waiting for the bus? Sure thing, start texting.

Socialisation in the digital age is entirely different from what it was like years ago.

Besides, the very fact that you are reading this article either on your digital device is a testimony of how much easier our lives have become since the advent of digital technology. In Singapore, one person owns an average of 4 digital devices!

School share documents with students online, employers send out tasks via instant messaging apps and emails. We are so used to digital technology that we can hardly function without them.

From this perspective, perhaps we should all be grateful for digital technology.

But that is not the full story.

While some may welcome this digital lifestyle as an “upgrade” to their initially “dull” lives, my personal take is that we are continually disrupted by the digital technology we treasure.

Social media as pills Source: Pixabay.com

Ironically, we become duller after using electronic devices as shown by a study done by Carnegie Mellon University.

We also suffer from a decreased attention span.

According to William Klemm, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University, over-usage of digital devices cultivates habits that conflict with focus and attention. The disruptive effects of technology have crept into our lives, causing harm to our productivity and even our relationships.

Still unconvinced?

Facebook, the first and biggest, social media platform, found that its users feel more miserable after “passively consuming social media” in one of its studies.

Having been a victim of the disrupting effects that digital technology—especially social media—has on studying, I took up the challenge by Professor Cal Newport to quit all unnecessary digital interactions a year ago and have continued the lifestyle ever since.

What have I lost? Until now, I have not missed any important messages.

What have I gained? A noticeable increase in my attention span, a sense of peace when I do not bring my phone to school, and a regained control over my life.

To successfully resist the disruptive impacts of digital technology, we must first realize that we are all creatures of habit. As such, the next time you have your hands on the power-on button of your digital device, do hesitate.

You are Aladdin; the lamp is in your hands. Let the “genie” serve instead of disrupt you.