Technology has brought with it a significant number of advantages. The list of ways in which living in a connected world has helped us enormously is long and distinguished. From wearables that help women stay safer when walking alone to phone apps that will help you with recycling, connected tech can literally be lifesaving. But there are also some drawbacks to living in an overly-connected world as well. Here are five (5) drawbacks to living in a hyper-connected world and how to avoid them.
1. Addiction to technology
Human beings have the ability to take almost any good thing and turn it into an addiction. Food, obviously, is not only a good thing but also literally necessary for survival. Medications can help minimize pain after surgery or an injury or relieve other types of physical discomfort. They are a necessity and do much more good than harm, and we would not want to live in the world without them. Yet, they can easily become an addiction. The same is true for technology.
Like so many things in life, technology requires balance – the ability to control our use of it rather than allowing it to control us. One thing that can be very helpful in achieving this is doing a digital detox. Because so many of us need to use technology for work, doing a full digital detox for a week or more may be nearly impossible. No matter what you do, however, or for how long, every little bit helps.
2. Low attention span
The idea that we are actually able to multitask has been thoroughly debunked. Instead, all that actually happens is that we simply switch our entire focus quickly from one thing to the other and then sometimes right back again. Whatever you do chronically becomes habitual. Over time, what you learn to do habitually can leave you actually incapable of doing anything else. The more you switch focus from one thing to the next, the more your ability to focus long-term on a single thing diminishes.
Being able to switch your focus quickly from one thing to the next can certainly have its advantages, but so can the ability to focus your attention on one thing for long periods. Once again, the key is achieving balance. You don’t want to get so wrapped up and engrossed in one thing that nothing else can claim your attention, but you also don’t want to have your attention so constantly scattered that you lose the ability to focus on a single project or task.
3. Privacy issues
According a to a recent Gartner report, by 2020 there are expected to be nearly 21 billion connected devices. Even if we aren’t personally connected, all of our devices will be and feeding an enormous amount of data about us to the highest bidder. Personal privacy is already on shaky ground as it is, but all this connected tech could make it completely obsolete.
When you think about privacy, however, and why you need it, what it all boils down to is what people that have information about you can do with it. In other words, the more businesses know about you, the more they can target marketing directly towards you. Conversely, however, they can only target you through means that you open. For instance, if you only check email once a day, then you only give email marketers one opportunity a day to reach you. If you turn off your phone at night, you give yourself several hours uninterrupted by marketing.
4. Social disconnect
It is an interesting conundrum that in a world that is more connected than ever before, we are feeling more disconnected from the world around us. A study from the UK concluded that loneliness may actually be the next public health epidemic, competing directly with obesity and substance abuse. In fact, loneliness is not just uncomfortable, it can actually increase your mortality risk by up to 26%.
Perhaps one of the reasons that technology creates such a social disconnect is that we can be whoever we want to be digitally. Instead of people getting to know who we really are – the good, the bad and the ugly – we get to show others a far more polished image of who we really are. Digital tools can certainly help enhance our personal relationships, but the truth is, as painful as it might sometimes be, we need face-to-face interactions to truly feel any type of acceptance.
5. Poor work life balance
Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks of connected devices is that it allows us to be constantly connected to work. This is especially true for remote workers. Many business owners may feel like that is a good thing, but it rarely is. The truth is that just like our devices, we too have “batteries” that need to be recharged. We just simply can’t be working all the time. We too need downtime, just like our devices.
As difficult as it may be, it is important to actually turn your devices off once in a while. Ironically, doing so may actually make you more effective at work, rather than less. One thing that is always important to remember is that human beings have existed for the longest time without being able to communicate with anyone not directly next to them. Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie are just a few of the most successful men in history that all built their businesses and their fortunes without the assistance of connected technology. While they may have had telegraphs and eventually telephones, they still couldn’t take them with them wherever they went. When you start to feel like you literally can’t live without your cell phone, it might be time to remind yourself that it’s just really not true.