Technology brings huge advantages to businesses, enabling them to increase efficiency and improve every aspect of their operations. It has connected the world, creating nearly limitless opportunity for growth, expansion and speed.
While this connectedness brings tremendous benefits, there are also equally powerful downsides.
This development of technology threatens to make people more distracted, and potentially too attached to their devices. The average iPhone user unlocks their device more than 80 times a day—that is 5 times each waking hour.
Most of the most popular apps are designed specifically to steal your attention. Not only is this making it increasingly more challenging to rise above distractions and be productive at work, but many argue this is having a dehumanizing effect on society in general.
The Huffington Post argues that “human beings are losing their ability to communicate in person. To smile at each other. To converse. To enjoy a meal together without looking at their smartphones… this is a tremendous loss that cannot be quantified.”
The dehumanizing effect that technology is having is not only about empathy and the ability to interact face to face. People are spending more time on social apps and comparing themselves to each other, and this constant feeling of missing out is dramatically multiplied when the entire world is at your fingertips.
Research shows that 61% of young adults feel that technology is dehumanizing, while other research links social media activity on apps such as Facebook with increased anxiety and depression.
Ethan Kross, the director of the University of Michigan Emotion and Self-Control Laboratory told USA Today that “the more people used Facebook during any one period of time, the more their mood levels dropped and the more their life satisfaction dropped."
Developers are not only concerned with the ability of their apps to capture your attention, but also to keep it. As you depend more on technology for your day-to-day life, you are sacrificing some of your independence and becoming reliant on the tools to function. Technology may provide advantages in the short-term but is a concern if long-term you are reducing cognitive capabilities.
The goal of technology should be to help in efficiency and solving problems. Instead, technology is an extension of the mind, and you are never able to unplug. This reduces creativity and problem-solving. Companies are incentivized to keep you glued to your device as attention and data are sources of profit.
The more dependent you are on any piece of technology, the more the company benefits financially. So they are incentivized, not to keep you productive, but to keep you attached. And the more attached you are, the less you are able to think independently or creatively.
These challenges that are being created by the reliance on technology extend beyond the individual personally. Your ability to answer the question; “how can we harness the power of technology without dehumanizing our team?” is more important than ever.
As people are more dependent on technology, researchers fear people are losing the ability to see the big picture. Rather than starting with an outcome in mind, then using technology to help achieve the outcome, people are only seeing the step directly in front of them. Solving problems requires thinking about a big picture, breaking down the problem into steps and then executing efficiently.
As a business, it’s important to make sure the use of technology has a purpose. If your team becomes reactive and distracted, you’ll see substandard work and choppy quality.
Technology is not going away, so the approach forward is not about avoiding devices or going back to landlines. The goal is to gain the maximum leverage technology provides while maintaining creativity and empathy.
One step companies can make is to lead by example. As research has highlighted the potentially harmful effects of technology, thought leaders are pushing for empowerment from products. Rather than making the goal to dominate your attention, products should help you be better and do more.
For your business, this thought process needs to be top of mind. Making sure your team is thinking independently, empowered to solve problems is paramount to success. Taking intentional steps to ensure technology is used as a tool, not a constant distraction, will help you stand out in in a world starving for independent thought.