Five Perils of Technology in Modern Times

A swipe on a tablet reveals a magical screenSir Isaac Newton, the great thinker and mathematician, was quoted as saying, “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” In the context of man’s technological advancement we can conclude that every invention has had both intended and unintended consequences for humanity.  Such is the plight of all of us to navigate this world; technology has the power to free us or enslave us.  We must understand that technology is a tool that can be used for helping humanity and for achieving the extraordinary. However, when we rely too much on technology, our success can be doomed from the start.  There are many ways that technology can actually hold us back (and in some cases hurt us); here are five of the most common perils of technology that all successful people have learned to overcome.

Jammed Communications
With today’s technology anyone can quickly compile an email, text, or tweet.  It’s so easy to communicate that people often forget to proofread what they’ve written and end up hitting the send button before realizing that they’ve made an embarrassing mistake.  I receive hundreds of emails a day and it saddens me to see so many up and coming professionals failing to do something so simple as to check their spelling and grammar. Not only does a typo take away from the message you are trying to convey, it also is a reflection on the quality of work that you do.  I’m not saying that I’m perfect either; believe me, I’ve made many regrettable mistakes. I’m no English major however it doesn’t take much time to proofread your messages before you send them.  Here are a few simple tips to help you communicate more effectively while making less mistakes.

  • Use a word processor to compile your messages first. Then copy and paste them into your email program.
  • Write a draft and then go back and reread your message 15 minutes later to see if it needs editing
  • Have a trusted friend help you write that important message
  • Read your message out loud before you send it. This makes it easier to catch mistakes
  • Avoid writing when you are stressed or angry; avoid impulsively firing responses back to emails and text

The Matrix Green Computer TextInformation Overload
Every day we are bombarded with information from a variety of sources all commanding our attention.  Whether it’s the TV, the computer or the smartphone there is no end to the constant stream of information being beamed into our mind.  An increasing number of people find themselves glued to screens for large portions of the day.  In a survey conducted by Bank of America, 35% of respondents surveyed said that the first thing they do when they wake up is to reach for their smartphone. The full study can be found here: http://newsroom.bankofamerica.com/press-kits/bank-america-trends-consumer-mobility-report

In our “always on, 24/7” world we are constantly being asked to do more and yet in many cases we’ve actually reached our limits.  Moreover, it can be argued that technological overuse can actually stymie personal growth as it can distract you from the more important things in life. Constantly attending to your phone or computer can lead you to lose sight of your goals making success that much harder to achieve.

Anecdotally I have found that this observation to be true.  Some years ago I was a young engineer working for a local government agency.  I was asked to meet with a successful businessman to discuss his plans to expand his business which included constructing new buildings and eventually hiring new employees.  When I arrived at his headquarters I was greeted by a well dressed secretary who happily escorted me up a winding staircase into the businessman’s office. His office was embellished with a variety of trophies and plaques and was decorated to resemble that of a relaxing cabin amid a forest of trees.  When I looked around the room I was shocked to see that there wasn’t a piece of technology to be had.  No computer screens. No phones. Not even a radio.  The only thing modern equipment in the room was the electricity to turn on the lights.

After we had discussed the purpose of my meeting, I asked the gentleman how it was that he got any work done in this office.  He explained that this room was his “thinking room” where he met with people and pondered important business decisions.

Thinking back on my meeting with him I have realized that he found success in his business not by avoiding technology but by limiting its use.  This allowed him to slow down so he could focus and think things through.  In a room without distractions, major business decisions could be made with clarity and a clear vision. I believe this allowed him to achieve far greater things than he could have ever done in a modern office setting.

Daily Distractions
Much like an information overload, modern technology is a master at distracting us.  Whether it’s our endless struggle to try and beat level 147 in Candy Crush or our need to read “just one more” of our friend’s Facebook posts we can easily find ourselves trapped in a world of technological distractions.  Distractions don’t just affect kids and stay at home parents either. According to a recent Salary.com survey, 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites during work hours. Television is also a problem, although TV viewership is down, the average American adult still watches more than 33 hours of television a week.

The ironic thing here is that if you ask the average person what is holding them back from achieving their dreams, most people will either say they lack money and/or time to invest in themselves with the latter usually being the most important factor (aside from the fear of failure).   There is a simple solution here; cut out the distractions and you’ll find you will have more time to do things then you can ever imagine.  With all the time spent watching TV and surfing the web you could work a second job, build your business on the side, exercise, work on your marriage, or pretty much do anything else to develop yourself into a better version of you.  Don’t let distractions be the downfall of your dreams.

Creativity Crisis
By nature we are creative beings.  We have the ability to create new and never before seen things out of materials that already exist. If it weren’t for our innovative and creative spirits, the technology that we have today would not exist.  However, instant access to the world’s information and a plethora of software applications can have the unintended consequence of actually slowing down the creative process.  This is in no small part due to how easy it is for people to plagiarize media.   The Internet has created a culture of plagiarism and many people find that the potential rewards of simply copying someone else’s work far outweigh the risks.  For some people, the temptation to copy others is too great and the sad result is that many will fail to ever see the true creativity hidden within themselves.

A laptop computer with Fake News on it.Fake News
The internet is a great place however all of the things that make it great also make it bad as well.  Since anyone can create a website or post something online it follows then that not everything you will encounter online can be trusted.  The truth is fake news is here to stay and the majority of tech experts don’t see things getting better in the future.  Obviously, the presence of misinformation online has the potential to cost companies millions of dollars, mislead resources in a moment of crisis, and even impact the political process of a world super power.  Finding trusted sources of information can be tough and it usually means checking multiple sources and spending extra time to make sure that you have your facts straight.  Avoiding the perils of fake news will be a challenge that everyone will someday have to face.

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