“Mom, dad, can you buy me a selfie stick, a portable charger, and a new phone case?” is the question likely asked by many young teenagers today. Many companies are on the rise selling cell phone accessories because of the increase in popularity of cell phones, and the great shift towards technology over the last decade. Technology is advancing at a speed that is becoming quite difficult to keep up with. For example, I wonder how many typical people in society understand how a cell phone works in general. Not many would probably be able to answer this, besides noting it makes phone calls, surfs the web, and sends text messages; but how it really works, is the real question.
Technology is advancing to the point where large companies are continuously brainstorming and implementing new ideas, and consumers just continuously keep purchasing what the companies have to offer without understanding how it works. If consumers were able to comprehend the functionality of their cell phone, then perhaps more individuals would realize what direction technology is moving.
Recently, in my 21st Century Risks HASS class, we watched an episode of a TV show called Black Mirror. To keep this summary short and without me giving too much away, the episode was about a woman who loses her spouse and uses a web platform to message him. She instantly receives a response back that is very similar to the responses he used to send when he was alive, based on his social media presence before passing away. The woman begins to depend on this messaging service, and soon enough, she depends on a robotic human that acts as her husband. This show was highly disturbing, yet made me realize the direction the progression of technology is heading to if not questioned by consumers.
Additionally, many humans seem to be preoccupied by technology. For example, the Apple Watch’s and Android Wear watches’ main purpose is supposedly to allow users to maintain a better sense of the happenings in one’s life. However, these smart watches can be viewed as a distraction, too. For example, when a user receives a new text notification, it will pop up on their wrist and a list of suggested responses will appear. Before you know it, the user taps the desired response and the message sends, perhaps looking at the watch for a maximum of five seconds. Text messages have always seemed to take away the user from whatever he or she may be doing, buries his or her eyes into a screen to read and send texts, and then return to the activity he or she was doing in-person. Often, the user will forget about or lose track of what was happening.
Consumers and users need to understand technology better. It is progressing so rapidly that it is, in a way, brainwashing many to continue purchasing new technologies, without them truly realizing their importance in society.
Additionally, when you purchase a new cell phone, do you ever wonder where the old one goes? Yes, it may sit in a drawer back at home, but most likely, it will end up in a landfill around the world, where the materials used to create the phone are extracted. Usually, these locations are in third-world countries suffering from large companies, who exploit these areas with no regard to environmental justice.
Am I saying we should stop using our cell phones altogether? No, but take a moment to think of the material, labor, economic, and social dimensions of your cell phone. It may greatly surprise you and inform you, too. Lastly, think of the direction and pace you want technology to advance in the next few years, and how you may want to make a difference.