Students: life in a technological age

Many of you will have woken up this morning to the sound of a musical masterpiece of an alarm from a phone/clock radio (God bless anyone with an old-fashioned, purpose-built alarm clock). Still in the hazy wake of sleep, the first thing most of you probably did was check for notifications, from text messages to Snapchat and WhatsApp. Like it or loathe it, technology is becoming more and more akin to an extra limb for the general public with every day that passes. Of course, the first to admit this would be students.

Students everywhere go through their days being subjected to the influence of modern technology. Television, radio, iPods etc. make up the soundtrack to our lives. Third-level education is facilitated by Moodle assignments/resources, our lectures incorporate internet research (and references to YouTube clips or Wikipedia images) and presentations are projected from the latest Microsoft software.

All the while, we continue to keep up-to-date throughout the day with a number of social media outlets. Twitter and Facebook interactions maintain priority in this regard.

The iPhone (and smartphones in general) is the key to such constant social interaction. The smartphone epitomises technology in the lives of students. This single multifaceted device has replaced many of the items our parents would have used on a daily basis. Items such as contact books, calendars, calculators, notebooks, alarm clocks, flash lights and cameras have all been substituted by the relevant app.

For many of us, it has become the norm to update statuses, check in, live-tweet or Snapchat occurrences in our daily lives. I spoke to Jennifer and Fiona, two second year students about their use of modern technology.

“I am never without my phone,” Fiona states. “I’d be lost without it, I’d feel out of touch with everyone and everything, if I didn’t have it with me.”

Jennifer agrees. “It’s just part of life now. Being on Facebook or Twitter is as important as having a telephone used to be in the past.”

However, when quizzed about a distinct reduction of privacy with the constant use of social media, the girls admitted: “It can be a little scary to think of it that way”.

Depending on the frequency with which you use of social media, friends (and even acquaintances or practical strangers) can be in a position to observe your life as it happens.

Looking beyond personal use and instead at societal impact, modern technology is certainly far from flawless. Take, for example, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 along with its passengers, yet to be recovered. The flight, with the intended route of Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared on March 8th with 239 people on board. The capability of technology to track the lives of millions worldwide and the simultaneous inability to locate one missing airplane seems ludicrous.

The negative social implications associated with the development of modern technology cannot go unmentioned either. The fact the technologically illiterate amongst the population are being left behind is a worrying trend. As technological advancements continue, the gap between literate and illiterate widens.

The illiterate are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to social interaction (virtually at least). But on the other hand, total immersion of one’s self in this cyber space and virtual interaction can be just as much of a negative consequence. Either way, face-to-face interaction is reduced.

It appears our societies are being lead down a path of introversion. Quite rightly, on the other side of the argument people will make the point that modern technology needs to be embraced as a step forward for human development. As noted by the students interviewed, mobile phones and social media have almost taken over from standard telephone calls in terms of a means of communication. It is a result of progress just as the mobile phone was a progression from the telephone.

Technological advancements (positive or negative) will continue to be part of life. Students may be leading the way in terms of embracing these advancements at present but only time will tell whether these advancements will have the right societal consequences for future generations.

Marissa Doherty

Image credit: AnneMarie Kelly

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