Changing technology is changing our lives

Glennis Siegfried

Technology creates communication pros and cons in daily life

Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

It’s about 15 minutes before the start of class. About 30 students have shown up for an Introduction to Sociology course, and they sit waiting for the instructor.

Nine are on cell phones, seven are listening to mp3 players and four are working on laptops. A few are even multi-tasking; flipping through their phones while listening to music.

Ivanka Sabolich, associate professor of sociology and the course instructor, encouraged students to get to know others around them during the first week of class. Only a small handful are now conversing with each other.

Today’s technology and its developments have had a large impact on students. Many have their own phones or a type of mp3 player. They also have a computer, sometimes two.

Ten years ago, much of this technology was either in its early stages, or did not exist at all. For example, iPods didn’t even exist until 2001. And wireless Internet has only recently become available in most public places.

With easier access, these gadgets have become a large part of student’s lives and, limited by only battery life, have changed today’s generation. But these new devices now seem to be a necessity, rather than an item of convenience, and have began to influence lives in numerous ways.

Technology’s negatives

“People aren’t as social, and they don’t talk with anyone,” said Jessica Van Meter, sophomore geography major.

She added that some people may be too wrapped up in the technology world.

“It’s pretty rare to walk down the sidewalk and see someone who is not on a cell phone these days,” said Ray Campbell, senior general studies major. He added that texting has now taken over instant messaging.

In 2005, it was estimated that there were more than 219 million cell phone users within the United States.

“People who use BlackBerrys and iPhones are real freaks,” said Bill Sledzik, associate professor of public relations. “They use them to the point of an addiction that becomes a hazard.”

These devices have the ability to make calls, send and receive e-mails and even have GPS. Because they are supposedly so addictive, some people have nicknamed BlackBerrys “CrackBerrys.”

Because of rising traffic accidents during the past few years involving cell phones, some states, including California, New Jersey and New York, have banned cell phone use

while driving.

Sophomore finance major Hatcher Meeks recounted a time when he was driving and another car was swerving all over the road. When he pulled up beside the other car, he noticed the driver was attempting to text while drive at the same time.

Stephen Keto, instructor of sociology, noted that computer users in his class will sometimes take advantage of the wireless Internet, but not for

academic purposes.

“I’ll walk by and see them on Facebook and checking e-mail (in class),” he said. “Fifty years ago we were sneaking comic books under the desk. Now it’s this.”

Keto has also been finding it harder to get students to talk with him during office hours. Instead, they’ll send e-mails, sometimes late at night. What really bothers him though, are the e-mails that contain poor grammar and misspelled words.

“I’ve had some real doozies, which I’ve taped to my door because they’re so pathetic,” he said of these e-mails.

Susan Roxburgh, associate professor of sociology, doesn’t consider technology a bad thing.

“I think the negatives get overestimated,” she said. “It’s a pretty common reaction to see a new innovation as being bad.”

For example, when newspapers came out, as children began to read them, the immediate reaction was to try to prevent them from reading about some of the events happening in the world.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have too much research on the subject yet,” Roxburgh said of the social impact of technology.

New worlds of opportunity

Sledzik requires students in each of his classes to use technology like Twitter and blogs. Some have embraced it, and some have done it grudgingly, he said.

“It’s not technology,” he said. “I like to think of it as a new way to communicate. When you learn how to use technology, you also learn how to communicate.”

He encourages his students to be creative with how they utilize technology.

“I stress to students that some people are passionate about material (that they post online),” Sledzik said. “Other people will post links, and I tell my students to tap into the resources people who are passionate use.

“(Technology) is opening doors all over,” he said. “For students who use and understand Facebook, they need to look at, ‘How might I introduce a product or service with Facebook?'”

Meeks said he takes advantage of Facebook for other purposes. In his case, checking if girls have a boyfriend.

“Then I’ll know for fact,” he explained.

Roxburgh said technology can have positive effects. One example is how often students now call their parents.

“When I was in college, you had to set aside time and it was an event to call home,” she said. “Nowadays, some students will call their parents two to three times a day.”

Campbell said the cell phone has to be one of greatest inventions. It eliminates conflict and helps people who are lost or stuck on the side of the road.

“Some (cell phones) are even becoming portable computers,” he added.

What lies ahead?

As this generation becomes more tech savvy with each new device, other generations have been finding themselves

left behind.

“Oh yeah, there’s definitely a gap. My grandma doesn’t even have a computer,” Van Meter said. “It’s almost like the older generation didn’t grow up. They didn’t learn, and now they don’t know how to use it.”

Others have embraced it though, including Meeks’ grandfather.

“He got DVR, and now he’s wondering how he went 70 years without it,” he said.

Keto says one of the biggest concerns with technology is the efficiency and ability in which people are able to use it, since each individual has different learning techniques.

“You have to balance it out,” he said. “We’ve been given the opportunity to connect people, and we’re living in exciting times. This biggest thing is once technology is in your hands, how do you control it?”

Contact technology reporter Glennis Siegfried at [email protected].