Information Technology’s Impact on Social Life

IT influences how we relate to one another, how we learn, and not only how we access information but also what information we receive, in addition to driving our economy and changing how we work and what jobs we do. Overall, information technology has been a huge help to human well-being, but it does raise some worrying considerations.

We may now readily communicate with one another via electronic media like cell phones, email, instant messaging, Twitter, and Facebook, allowing us to remain in touch with and share information with more people than ever before. Is this leading to more healthy and happy connections than when we interacted primarily face to face, or is it leading to more and more superficial ties? Or, by wise application of these tools, may we have both more and better quality relationships?

Children are spending less and less time in traditional play activities with playmates and more and more time alone watching television, playing electronic games, and sitting at computer screens. Play is vital for physical and emotional development, and kid obesity has become a national health issue in the United States in recent years. Furthermore, all of this exposure to powerful stimuli appears to be causing our children’s attention spans to shorten in the classroom.

Many recent case studies have demonstrated that long-term exposure to the extreme information overload caused by frequent usage of electronic media can affect brain development and even rewire adult brains. What, if any, consequences will these tendencies have on our society? Most instructors’ educational equipment was once confined to overhead projectors, slide projectors, and movie projectors to support the blackboard, which had been the standard for years. Today’s digital revolution has created a plethora of options that are altering the way instructors deliver education and students pursue it.

Distance education allows students to get advanced degrees at their speed from anywhere in the world, without ever having to visit the degree-granting institution. Many students will see clear benefits, but it also begs the question of whether the traditional residential university’s high costs and inefficiency are warranted in today’s technological world.

Finally, traditional print media, such as newspapers, periodicals, and books, are losing ground to digital media. Newspapers and periodicals are disappearing one by one, while the Kindle and iPad are placing pressure on book publishers. Traditional journalism, in which reporters are taught to check facts and avoid prejudice, is giving place to blogs and opinionated news programs. News shows that try to stick to traditional journalistic norms are losing listeners to overtly biased cable networks that cater to specific demographic groups, and the most popular hosts are those that shout the loudest and have the most strong opinions. What do these developments indicate for our future if one believes that a healthy democracy is predicated on a well-informed electorate? To do justice to the social, legal, and ethical challenges in IT, an entire book would be required.

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