Lack of concentration and a bad back: how technology is destroying our lives - ForumDaily
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Lack of concentration and a bad back: how technology is ruining our lives

Some technological advances can be called a miracle - they have made our lives so much easier. But sometimes we don’t notice the other side of the coin. Tim Dowling, journalist Guardian, spoke about how technology is ruining his life.

Photo: iStock.com/gremlin

Let's be honest: technology has improved our lives. They still surprise and delight us every day. Our phone has a flashlight! Our TV remembers at what point we finished watching the movie yesterday! The board at the bus stop shows when the bus will arrive, and we can track the entire journey of our pizza from the restaurant to our home! These are, frankly, miracles, says journalist Tim Dowling.

But, he noted, there were corresponding victims.

“For 20 years, I have transferred entire areas of competence, memory, authority and independence to machines. Along the way, I began to worry about problems that did not exist before: I became indecisive about choices that I had never had to make before, and I became angry about things that I was once completely unaware of,” Tim began his story.

1. Goodbye concentration

A 2022 survey by the Center for Attention Research found that 49% of adults believe their attention span has decreased due to all the competing distractions on our phones and computers. Now we spend at least 20 minutes examining every idle thought. Information takes us down internet rabbit holes. Our attention is distracted by endless notifications and news.

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“Duolingo especially haunts me with the insistence of bailiffs - sometimes the app interrupts my Italian lessons to remind me to take an Italian lesson, which is why I still cannot order coffee in Rome in Italian after five years of studying it,” - says Dowling.

2. What about posture?

Tim felt the harm of sitting in front of a screen all day, so he bought a stand to elevate his computer, hoping it would help him sit up straight. Then he got varifocal glasses, which meant he had to crane his neck and jut his chin to read the screen through the bottom half of the glasses. He eventually switched to a laptop. Then he had to put it on a stand. Even after all this, he still has questions.

“I tried to set an alarm so that it would remind me from time to time to step away from the computer, but it continued to wake me up even in the middle of the night,” the journalist complains.

3. Sometimes life feels like an endless struggle to prove you're not a robot.

Apparently this includes all the failed attempts to click on all the traffic light pictures to qualify as someone looking for dishwasher parts.

“This means resisting the temptation to click on one of those automatic reply buttons on emails that send the person back something like 'Okay, thanks!' and make up your own answer,” explains Dowling.

4. Inevitable online meetings

Previously, you might have said, “Friday? Sorry, I'll be in Antarctica on Friday." But thanks to Zoom, Google and FaceTime, there's simply no reasonable excuse for not showing up for a meeting. You can even constantly watch an image of your face during a meeting to see exactly how bored you are.

5. Let's argue...

“I remember a time when it was considered ungentlemanly to fact-check the statements of a drinking buddy in the pub. You just had to refute his arguments with your own convincing facts, shares Dowling. “But when everyone has the GDP of every BRICS country at their fingertips, there doesn’t seem to be much point in a lively debate. You end up spending the entire evening surfing the Internet and sometimes saying, 'Yeah.'"

“There's no way you can get into a petty squabble over little-known facts in a telephone environment these days,” Tim concludes.

6. How to turn you on?

You may have experienced that feeling when you get behind the wheel of your rental car at a foreign airport, look at the dashboard and think: How can I start it? Or perhaps you've encountered a similar situation in an unfamiliar shower, or while standing in front of a seemingly ordinary cooktop. The relentless development of new ways to turn on gadgets, as Dowling described it, is gradually moving us away from the intuitive to the deliberately mysterious.

“Last week I found myself alone in a cold bedroom with an electric radiator that didn't work. I ended up having to flip it over to find the model number and look up the PDF manual online. I just wanted it to be warm,” the journalist argues.

In real life, the controls were reduced to flat black panels covered in inscrutable symbols: a crescent moon, a lightning bolt, a circle with an M inside it, where the M stands for mode.

“Maybe I’m too old, but I can’t believe that today’s youth are demanding Wi-Fi-enabled kettles,” marvels Dowling.

7. Unlimited access to the opinions of stupid people

“Technology doesn't just let me know what stupid people are thinking, it now curates their thoughts and feeds them to me daily, as if I were some kind of expert on idiocy. To be honest, I don’t remember asking for this,” Tim admits.

8. Stupid people are given unlimited access to each other's opinions.

According to Dowling, stupid people now have their own media where they can freely discuss and mutually confirm their stupid ideas.

“Alas, this is not the absolute force for good that we hoped for,” he regrets.

9. Bug fixes

“I've never been a good typist, but ever since word processing programs started correcting my mistakes, I've gained misplaced confidence in my abilities. In cases where this feature is not available for some reason, I write as a person who has had a stroke,” admits Dowling.

10. The strange responsibility of following bad news in real time

“Doomscrolling is what they call it. Everyone does it to one degree or another: bad news is simply more compelling than good news, but for me it went from a mild compulsion to a full-time job,” states Dowling.

11. Fear of being deceived

When it comes to delivery notifications for things we don't remember ordering, messages from our cell phone provider, QR codes, and anything that requires us to click a link, we get suspicious.

“I assume that the messages from my bank about fraudulent activities are themselves fraudulent. I once ignored a real email from my son saying he had lost his phone and asking me to text a foreign number. He was alone in Vietnam at the time, and I thought: nice try, bastard,” the journalist recalls.

12. Difficulties with passwords

“I am forced to live in silent and shameful disregard for all generally accepted ideas about passwords,” he reveals secrets. “When people tell me not to write down passwords, not to use the same password over and over again, and to change them regularly, I nod and say, 'Sure,' but I think to myself, are you kidding me? I write down all my passwords, use as few variations as possible, and only change them when forced to.”

“I click the 'Forgot your password?' option. and every time I set a new one, and then I instantly forget again,” he clarifies.

13. No surprises

It used to be considered terrible to Google someone just before meeting them. Nowadays it seems impolite to show up without knowing anything about a person. You need to be aware of what you are going to see and do, where to eat, and likely transportation routes.

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“Don't get me wrong: I like to be prepared, but I don't want to read a restaurant menu before leaving the house,” explains Dowling.

14. Creative clutter on your desk

“I consistently rose to the level of disorganization that any new technology allows,” says Dowling.

At the time of writing, Tim had 77 tabs open in his browser. Every morning he looks through hundreds of open documents to find the one he needs.

“You might think that all that virtual clutter—tied neatly into a thin laptop—would still be preferable to desk clutter, but my desk is also cluttered and the walls around it are covered in sticky notes,” elaborates Dowling.

15. Without technology we are helpless

Sometimes you hear about inventions that seem designed to promote slavery: self-tuning guitars, programmable cocktail machines. But we only truly remember how much territory we have ceded to technology when the gadgets break down. It's not just that we're losing essential skills. The thing is, we can't even remember the process.

“How did I use to find my way, figure out what to watch on TV, or pay for takeout? There must be some instructions,” the journalist is sure.

16. The rest of the world is also helpless without technology.

Dowling occasionally subjected himself to certain technological deprivations: a week without a smartphone, a month without Google, and so on.

“I'm here to tell you that when you refuse modern technology, the world usually refuses to take part in the experiment. You'll know it the first time someone behind the counter looks you in the eye and tells you to just download the app,” Dowling concludes.

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