Annie R. Remington, first place in AskPetersen Scholarship
Some people can’t remember the last time they read a book, even though they read all day long. They don’t read holding books or papers in their hands, but sitting in front of a screen. Text messages, Facebook updates, tweets, blogs, random news… we read brief content because our time is valuable. Computers make each daily task easier. We need to process as much information as possible in as little time as possible. We are available twenty-four hours a day, but we still don’t have enough time to get all updates we need. It seems like people are not living a single life.
Our virtual self-presentations can take many forms, so we are living parallel lives with all anonymous connections we have in the cyber space. Throughout history, people have been documenting their existence and appearance through paintings and photographs. Today, we are leaving our digital self-portraits in the virtual reality. With every day that goes by, we are getting more and more dependent on computers, to the extent when we are unable to distinguish virtual from actual reality.
When the first computers appeared, people couldn’t even assume that those machines would evolve into tools that define people’s lives. The first computers were huge machines with a small number of functions, but over time they turned into compact devices with an incredible functionality. With the emergence of the Internet, computers revolutionized our entire society. Although this technology was initially invented for the needs of the American military, today it’s the most utilized communication tool for people of all ages. Animations are replaced by 3D movies, and written letters are replaced by online chat and social networking.
Under the influence of this technology, people are changing the language, trends, and overall culture. Unfortunately, many people who start using computers for work or fun turn their usage in constant habit, which evolves into addiction. Children are spending more and more time looking at a screen – they stare in the TV, computer, tablet, and mobile phones with brief breaks for eating and sleeping. Therefore, the only natural setting they are aware of is the one they see on their electronic devices.
Addiction, despite the frequent consumption of the object or substance of dependency, causes discomfort. When computers are absent from our lives even for a day, we start craving for information. That imposes a question: are we addicted to computers? Since the use of the Internet became an irreplaceable aspect of people’s lives, numerous negative consequences have appeared. The first forms of electronic addiction, which appeared back in the 50s of the 20th century, appeared after the emergence of flippers. In the 80s, when the era of video games began, people took their passion for gaming further. With the massive use of the computer and the increased number of Internet users, games remain one of the main culprits for addiction.
Although we recognize extreme forms of computer addiction, such as the one related to gaming, we don’t realize that most people today are severely dependent upon computers. We can observe these subtle nuances of addiction in our daily actions: we make our to-do lists on the computer, we can’t live without Gmail and Google calendar, and we’ve nearly forgotten how our handwriting looked like. The greatest problem is that we don’t want to go back in time. Why would we? The so-called digital life offers us plenty of benefits that we don’t want to abandon.
Our perception of reality has definitely changed under the influence of computer technology. Stanislaw Lem’s books and Tarkovsky’s futuristic films have lost their impact and seem outdated from today’s point of view. The way technology made our world look like is crazier than any science fiction movie from the past. Some people are nostalgic for the old days, but even they cannot stay away from the Internet. It’s enough for them to search through Google and they will find the films they thought they would never see, the songs they thought they would never hear, and the books they thought they would never find. Everything is available with a single click, order, or download. Without this comfort in our lives, we would be completely lost.
It seems like we belong to a generation of people who have seen everything. We used to dream about seeing the Niagara Falls when we were kids and we knew how they looked only from the picture in a newspaper. Today, the Internet gives us realistic experiences of everything. We can read articles, see videos and photographs, and take virtual tours through any destination in the world. We don’t need to buy a ticket to a concert of classical music when we can watch it online. Every event is filmed, published, and immediately available for us to see. All this information we process on a daily basis gets us distracted.
Our minds are flooded with data and news that we never wanted to hear, but we ran into them through an online search. Even when we realize that computers make us tired and distant from our real friends, we cannot imagine living without them. We would be lonely, lost, and alienated without being connected all the time. It seems like the modern man has an addiction that’s almost impossible to get rid of. The line between virtual and actual reality is blurry, and it will remain that way for as long as technology keeps ruling our world.