Technology: boon or bane of our life?

User going through some applications on a smart phone. Picture: BT/Yusri Adanan.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WALK around anywhere in our country and it would be hard to miss a new breed of Bruneians that come surgically attached with a mobile phone, either in the palm of their hand or wedged against their ears.

"Internet is the next frontier everything is online so whether you like it or not, if you're not online you're not in the game," says 35-year-old Joey. When asked if he could do without his phone for a day, he answers, "Obviously not, what if things happen if you don't have your phone with you."

Jon Lee, a local student, aged 18, feels the same about his own phone. "These days, we really need the Internet and phone to reach our friends and also do our schoolwork with information we get from the Net."

"And most phones come equipped with cameras, which is a useful tool as we may have forgotten or chose not to bring a bulky camera but we will always have our phones with us," he adds.

"I believe that exposure to the Internet at a younger age would help students learn faster and although there are risks involved, it is good for them to understand situations as a whole and analyse the problems themselves," says Daisy C, a school teacher from the public sector.

"Even for myself, I find the Internet extremely resourceful and now with 3G internet access on mobile phones, we always remain in the know, anywhere and everywhere."

This is now a common mindset for those of us who have been touched by this technology. As much as we choose to deny it, most of us will feel lost without our phones.

Mobile phones used to only have to ability to make calls. Now, it is now a multi-functional tool, with access to instant messaging, web browsing, and used as an alarm clock, camera, music and video player and other functions depending on the model of your phone.

We live in an era that is heavily dependent on this form of technology and this reliance spans across the work and personal aspects of our lives. The spidery arms of technology has reached so far that we cannot ignore its usefulness and cannot live without its assistance.

Children are now more mentally adept and maturing at a faster rate when compared to children of a decade ago. Access to the Internet has opened young minds to seas of information that may have been previously restricted through limited accessibility in the past. This positive aspect comes with a price as the internet is also littered with useless and inaccurate information that young ones may not be capable of filtering.

We have become a generation that is taught to memorise and recite information through technology not our brains. Especially for smartphone users, saving a picture of an item for later use is common practice.

For many years now, Google has been the answer to anyone when general interest and skepticism comes to mind. We have all come to know and love our know-it-all friend which not only helps us with our spelling but grants us access to over a million different sources of information.

The birth of communication online through mediums such as mIRC and ICQ led the pathway to the Msn Messenger and eBuddy services of today. Internet community sites such as Facebook and Friendster are added incentives for people to stay online to be "closer" to others.

But how will we know when normal becomes too much, or when practicality sinks to excessiveness?

Typically, the concern about our dependence on technology is that it takes away our time from family and friends in the real world. This will lead to the decade-old paradox, with experts and scholars debating if technology helps to bring people closer together or drive them further apart. Some experts believe that excessive use of the Internet and mobile phones may slowly reshape our personalities causing people to become more impatient, forgetful, impulsive and even more narcissistic, and some studies have suggested that extreme dependence on this technology is akin to an addiction.

Netaddiction.com was founded in 1995 to help people who suffer from Internet addiction those who are unable to control their use and end up jeopardising relationships. The site offers self-assessment tests to determine the possibility of addiction.

However, there are some of us who have been bitten but not been completely consumed by this technology bug. 22-year-old Stephanie says, "I remember at one time have had to live without my phone for a couple of days but it did not really bother me."

"Sure, I may feel lost without my phone ... but the handphone isn't the centre of my life and neither is Facebook."

For everyone else in general, the simplest advice would be to curtail the amount of time you spend online and set limits for how often you check e-mail or force yourself to leave your mobile phone at home occasionally.

The Brunei Times