Digital media and technology are ubiquitous today, which means we are presented with an inexhaustible series of messages and opportunities to be entertained and informed. The resulting state of information intensity is generally considered to be a major benefit of living in our age, and to some extent even necessary to modern life. This being the case, what are the ways that we actually use this technology? At a high level, there are three broad categories of intention behind our use of technology, and they are not all good for us.
A common use for media and technology is to distract ourselves from the present moment. In an uncertain world, the chance to be distracted from our worries and the pressures of life is often welcome. Media and technology can provide us with a temporary escape from reality, but like with addictive drugs, the pressing concerns of life don’t disappear — though when we are distracted with Twitter or Netflix they may fade into the unnoticed background for a while. Distraction (and remedy to boredom) is perhaps the worst use of technology because we pay for it with our most valuable asset –time– and we get little of value in the exchange. An example of this negative outcome from technology is Internet AddictionDisorder (IAD), recognized by the Chinese government as a major threat to its youth population. On a smaller scale, how many of us are guilty of spending time in essentially pointless browsing of the limitless possibilities of the Internet, or of compulsively checking Facebook and email? Is the compounded effect (and opportunity cost) of this pattern of behavior really in our best interest?