Nobody can dispute the fact that technology has made our daily lives easier and more comfortable. Indeed, those who, like me, are on the wrong side of 50 surely never imagined when we were young that we would live to experience the wonderful technological advances that have become an almost imperceptible part of our daily life today. One of the areas where most progress has been registered is that of information and communications technologies (ICT).

However, all this has come at a cost and I think it is worthwhile to reflect on the social price we are paying for all these technological advances. I first became aware of the enormity of the problem facing our society today when I used to teach at post-secondary level.

For example, I was amazed at the way some students seemed to be addicted to continual use of their cellular phone. It seemed an ordeal for several of them to be asked not to use their cellular phone to send messages during lectures. Likewise, between lectures, students often bumped into each other because they were busy texting on their mobile phones while walking from one lecture room to another.

There is also a dangerous side to this addiction to mobile phones. Have you noticed the enormous increase in the number of people who are using their mobile phones while driving?

Some drivers have also developed the immensely dangerous and utterly irresponsible habit of sending SMSs while driving. This behaviour should be condemned because it could be near-suicidal in some situations. More legal enforcement is necessary to stop this madness.

We should also stop to reflect on the amount of time that some youngsters are spending on computers, mobile phones and television. Is it a healthy lifestyle to have many kids of primary school age spend a whole weekend cooped up in front of their computers for long hours, continuously using their mobile phones in between, and finishing the day in front of a television screen?

It is becoming common today to see relatively young children rubbing their eyes due to the strain of being in front of a screen all the time .

There is also the moral aspect to consider. Today, we are increasingly being faced with problems of anger management, violent incidents and arrogant people. Yet, at the same time, many of our kids spend long hours playing video games which are nothing less than a celebration of violence.

Perhaps even worse is the case of DVDs. Some irresponsible parents find it easy to keep their children quiet by letting them see DVDs absolutely unsupervised and without even blinking an eye when their offspring watch films which are totally unsuitable for their age. What seems to be more important for some parents is that their children are “quiet”, engrossed watching most unsuitable scenes on the screen in front of them: graphic and gory violence, explicit sex bordering on the pornographic, and so on.

For many of us, e-mails have proved to be a blessing because now one can immediately communicate with somebody on the other side of the world. The advent of the e-mail has meant great advances in business and social communication.

Many of our kids spend long hours playing video games which are nothing less than a celebration of violence

However, even here a new problem has cropped up. The e-mail has eliminated a lot of face-to-face social communication. There is absolutely nothing wrong in this when one is pressed for time or when there are problems of distance but nowadays we have got so used to e-mail that it has made us lazy.

Positive social interaction is very often being suprseded by communication through e-mail when there is no need for this.

Social interaction should always be preferable to communication by e-mail. Yet, quite often, when we ask somebody to meet about something, we get the standard reply: “Send me an email about it”.

The point I am trying to make is that face-to-face communication is always better than communicating by email.

Yet, we have got so used to communicating by e-mail in our daily lives that we often do so when it would be much more advisable to communicate face-to-face and easy to do so. Without perhaps knowing it, we are becoming technological robots, eliminating the traditional forms of human communication and substituting them by mechanical ones.

To conclude, technological progress is always welcome. We should be all-out for it. However, we must also reflect on where we have arrived today and where we are heading in the future.

We have to ask ourselves important questions: “Have we become slaves of modern technology?”; “Are we slowly abandoning a lot of what makes us human?”; “Have we come to the point where we prefer impersonal forms of communication to personal ones?”; “Are we changing human life into a robotic one?”.

Shaping our future depends on how we answer these questions today.

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