After nearly forty weeks of increased temperature and torture, my mother gave birth to me on September 5, 1995. Now that I have reached my senior year of college at the age of 24, I have realized that society as a whole has so many flaws. Through my eyes, the evolution of the world around me is fascinating to think about because the changes in my short span of existence are astronomical. Yet, growing up in a fast paced, technologically advancing world has shown, the decline in behavior of society with more reliance on technology. It is my firm belief that because of complete reliance, simplification of difficult problems, and a drastic gap in human interaction, technology has made society weaker and the truly hard-working individuals (such as myself and countless others) have become a rarity.
When I was young, life was very simple. My siblings and I would wake up every day, put some worn down clothes on, and we would head to the barn with my grandfather we would typically help feed and milk the cows, then head to the hay loft where we would unload wagon after wagon of hay filled to the top. When all the work was done we would play outside until it got dark. When we got into the farmhouse, we would clean up, put on our pajamas, and head to the family room to watch cartoons or Barney VHS tapes. When I think about it, my family was behind the technology curve while I was growing up. In elementary school, all the children around me were getting the newest Nintendo systems like the brand new Gameboy at the time. I would beg and plead with my parents why I would need to no avail. I would always receive the same response, “You should put it on your Christmas list.”
Being that I was stuck behind the technological advancements that all my classmates had, I focused my efforts towards school and learning, because at a young age I wanted to be the smartest in the class. Into middle school, we had moved into our house right down the road from the farm. I never lost touch with my roots to it because every occasion where my grandfather needed help with the hay, I would jump at the opportunity because, to me, it was fun and exciting. It also aided my competitive spirit because my siblings and I would challenge each other to move more bales than the other. I still struggled to catch up to the newest technology; my family had an old dial up computer that really was used to print out MapQuest directions. My parents had cellphones, and so did my friends and classmates, but I shared a cellphone with my sister Allysa and its only purpose was to be an emergency contact source so I never really used it much.
By the time I entered high school, social media had exploded, and Myspace and Facebook controlled the status quo. Kids were always talking over the internet through instant messaging systems such as AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). Whether it was swapping answers to the homework or discussing general gossip about other people, it seemed to be the only thing people talked about. It was weird to me because I did not create a Facebook account or have my own cellphone until I turned sixteen, and I honestly am thankful that it was that way. Because I was not spending time on social media, my education abilities had flourished. Due to my focus on knowledge, I was able to pick up on advanced information quickly while others around me struggled. I was a source of answers for lots of my classmates and I was so obsessed with being the best student that I never really wanted to talk to other people. It even got to the point where I could not have a conversation with some individuals unless it was them asking for homework answers.
One fateful exam day, I grew tired of my knowledge being exploited. Leading up the exam on astrophysics, pretty much the entire class was messaging each other and googling the answers. I was left out of the all communication, which admittedly came as quite the sting because I thought these people were my friends and I struggled slightly with some of the equations. On this specific day, I had put the work in and I knew how to handle every problem that was given to me. The teacher handed out the exams and exited the room as he normally did. Usually it was for him to make copies and we were the honors class so it was safe to assume the class had some integrity. But the instant the coast was clear, a flood of about twelve students rushed to my lab table. In my mind, I wanted to get back at these people for not helping me out, so I answered every question on the exam wrong. I purposefully scored a 55 on the exam because I knew I had 45 bonus points sitting around from lab questions and exam reviews. On that day, I realized that although technology is a great tool, by relying on it people are not learning they are just becoming essentially a data base of repeated information. The kids I went to school with had no drive to want to learn, they wanted to memorize the questions answers and just copy them down, get good grades, and go about their social lives.
The trend continued when I headed off the West Virginia University, phones had transitioned from flip phones into small touch screen computers in your hand. Instead of having to wait for the dial up connection and slow internet to start up, I could click the Google Chrome app on my phone and nearly infinite amounts of information could be accessed. If I struggled with something in class, I could simply go on Google and search, “how to solve for the chemical reactiveness based on pressure in a tank” and instantaneously have all the equations I needed by just clicking a website link. Then, I realized that the rest of the students I was taking class with, started becoming glued to their phones and instead of wanting to learn, they relied on websites such as chegg.com to solve all their difficult problems.
I failed. I was twenty-two and studying chemical engineering thermodynamics on top of working as a bouncer until 3:00 AM most nights, caused for the most stressful period of my life. No matter how much I attempted to understand the information presented to me, I could never fully grasp how to perform well. Because I could not focus most of my nights trying to learn, I fell back on searching for the answers, I would try my hardest to get the answer myself but to no avail and so I would turn to some website to give me the answer. My grade was horrible and for the first time ever, I felt hopeless. Failing at something so drastically for the first time broke my spirit, and I reached out for help from the professor, but when it came time for our scheduled meeting, he was a no show and the only response I could get out of him was “I am busy, and you are not top priority at this moment so please return later.” It crushed me, and quite honestly I was ready to settle as a factory worker and give up my quest for success, so I withdrew from the University and did not have any plans for the future. All I could think about was that one failure, and how it delved from me relying on technology.
It feels weird to reflect on how technology was so new but I never realized how far it would come in nineteen years. When I was young the internet was still coming about as a source to find or send information and messages, such as emails. I never wanted to go on the computer or watch TV growing up because I liked to play and work on the farm. I am so thankful for the farm too because without it, I would probably have never learned what hard, strenuous work actually meant.
In a pediatric research study, it was found that children develop behavioral problems in accordance to how much technology is used (by parents and themselves) on a day to day basis These behavioral problems include lack of social interaction, an increase in emotional reactions to simple things, and what is considered difficult actions such as physical violence. (McDaniel) Instead of playing outside and using their imagination, kids are now watching videos on the internet about anything and everything. Due to parents’ lack of interaction with their children, children have been left to learn about interaction from the things they see. Instead of teaching children about hard work, not quitting, and doing one’s best, parents are relying on cellphones and tablets “entertain” kids. They should not need entertainment; my parents would have to basically drag my siblings and me inside because we would entertain ourselves with sticks and dirt. It should not be a chore to want to be outside instead of watching cartoons but because there are so many easy ways out of dealing with an upset, often loud, child is to automatically turn to handing over a phone, IPad, kindle, or whatever device may have been created to remotely access the internet so they can watch some other child play with toys on the internet. I am not saying that letting a child enjoy funny videos or play games is a bad thing, but it cannot be the only thing that the child does. Life is a balance of work and play and because of technology it has become all play.
The internet has almost an infinite expanse of the knowledge and information that has been collected to the best extent of the technology we have. Yet, because society has grown so reliant of technology to discover information, or connect with others, people are constantly divided over the dumbest, most exhausting arguments that just so happen to appear in the media all the time. Any person that can access the internet can go onto a news website and read an article about almost any subject, but it has become habit (for most) to trust what is being presented to them. Instead of using the giant expanse of information at their fingertips to fact check something, or look up an approved research paper that someone typically spends months or even years developing, they just assume that news sources like CNN or Fox News are always right in what they are saying.
Why is it that guns are suddenly bad and should be taken from every civilian home in America? I in fact was reported to the dean of students at Wilkes University for simply looking up the new firearms that came out thus far in 2019. I grew up around firearms and the first time I shot a gun, I was five years old. And before I was allowed to even place a finger on a firearm, I was taught proper safety by my father. It is a big problem in the way people view firearms because just like technology, or a shovel, guns are tools. And it is an effective tool at feeding families across the country each year. But once a tragic event occurs involving a shooter, my immediate thought is “what kind of weapons are they going after this time?” because instead of pointing the blame at the person who pulled the trigger, a large portion of people direct their attention to getting rid of firearms. This country should focus the attention away from gun control and towards gun safety because taking away citizens’ guns would not only be a huge disaster, but also there is so much opportunity to educate people on firearms. Not only could you broadcast a standardized version of a firearms safety course to the entire country via a media streaming application, but also sponsor events at gun shops to promote learning firearms the proper way. Because right now kids learn about firearms initially through video games like “Call of Duty” and then they go to experiment without proper supervision somewhere in there life. When they do not fully understand how a firearm functions and just believe it looks cool, there are bound to be accidents.
Something that goes hand in hand with firearms is general conversation because words basically have turned into loaded guns in this country. I work a full time job and go to college full time, so most nights when I want to wind down and relax, I will look at social media. Most of the time, it does not take long to find a political view post where people are getting angry with each other over problems that cause viewpoints to easily be twisted. Racism is a horrible and disgusting entity that weak minded individuals turn to when they want to feel part of something. But it is also a two way street in every case because instead of having face to face conversations that could be beneficial, people rely on technology (in the form of social media) to communicate so everything can be interpreted differently. It feels like a spit in the face when someone calls me a racist because I was raised to not care about a person skin color, but I was taught to judge a person by their character. It does not matter if someone is Black, Asian, White, Hispanic, green, or whatever color they so happen to be, I will gladly converse with anyone and give respect until I am given a reason to not show respect. If someone were to judge me because some blog on the internet said that country people are racists and that is all it would take to make their decision on whether or not to like me, it would piss me off. But because society jumps to conclusions based on something someone said and not fully understanding what they person meant is all because of technology.
The same applies for dating as well. Divorce in America is egregiously high and it all stems from online dating, because the most valuable part of a relationship, communication, gets lost through text messages. I will admit to having downloaded apps on my phone for meeting women my age like Tinder. I will also be the first person to admit that I only used it for hooking up with women I found attractive. That is how most college campuses are around this country though and when “swiping right” becomes a custom to meeting someone, whether the opposite or same sex, people cannot fully know someone through words written in a text message. Next thing you know, the person believes that they are in love when it all retrospect they do not know anything about the person they are conversing with. I could have lied to every girl I have ever talked to on the internet because it is with all the pictures and alibis that someone could Google search. I did not do those things but it happens daily and over fifteen thousand people lost over 211 million dollars because it is simple to fake it.
I met my fiancée, Brittany, at a house party through a mutual friend. At the time, I was still at West Virginia University, working as a bouncer, and I used Tinder constantly. But the night I met Brittany, I was so infatuated that it made me awkward. After countless scenarios ran through my head, I took a chance and ended up getting her phone number. Because of the distance, technology was our tool to communicate and I wanted to learn as much about her as I could. The real test came when I came back home and we would spend personal time together. I must admit, we have had a few rough patches, but although we are polar opposites, we were able to talk about anything and everything which is something I had never been able to do. When meeting women previously, there would be no real connection aside from the infatuation, but with Brittany, I fell in love with her personality. We have open conversations where nothing is off limits and when we have an issue we talk through it. We do not publicly post our problems for everyone to see, we nip it in the butt as soon as it happens and talk through it which cannot be achieved when people are commenting and sparking more problems that should never have happened in the first place.
Not only are people relying on technology to communicate, but they are using it daily to solve simple things, like basic math. I feel that if someone has to rely on a calculator to solve elementary level multiplication, they are making themselves dumb while the rest of the crowd is putting in the work to make themselves better each day. I understand it is easy to tap a screen a couple of times and it gives you the right number every time, but the human brain is so complex and has so many amazing capabilities that it is negligent to use its abilities, yet society lumps together groups based on things as simple as college majors or grades leaving the individuals who are striving to better themselves lost in the crowd Instead of become so enveloped in a world driven by the newest technology that can perform even the most basic actions, like calling a salon to make an appointment, nearly obsolete. Humans are losing the one thing that sets them apart, free thinking. If someone can freely think of something new and perform the necessary steps to achieve a goal, that is intelligence. It is what separates humans from machines and every other creature on the planet. But instead of using those abilities, people have engulfed themselves into a digital world where if you are not acting a certain way or thinking a certain way, you are looked down upon.
The one thing I know that is certain is that I will never let anyone or anything out work me. Yes, I will most likely use technology as a tool to achieve a task, just as it was intended. But I refuse to let myself rely on technology to solve my problems. I will wake up every day, get out of bed, and work harder than the day before to get where I want to be. Put simply, I want to change the world. I feel society has become so weak, so frail that instead of wanting to improve on the basis of making this planet better, they rely on how much money they can make. It disgusts me that companies would rather lay off valuable workers instead of cutting the people at the tops salaries. One day, I will be a CEO. It does not matter how long it takes, I will work harder than anyone. Sure, people are going to say that I cannot do it because I am not good enough or because I do not have the right personality, but those are exactly the people I will prove wrong. I am not afraid to fail, because I take each one of those moments, learn from them, and keep pushing forward. I have received so many “no” answers from job applications that it could be considered devastating, but that will never stop me. I will fight tooth and nail for the right opportunity and when it comes, I promise I will hit the ground running. My success will never be defined but how much money is in my bank account, how many people follow me on social media, or how many material goods I have; my success will be defined but how I change the world. Every ounce of hard work I put in to change humanity for the good, and all the innovation I will help discover along my journey will shape the way I want others to see me. I will prove every single person who has ever said anything negative about me wrong. While they sit and dig the technology hole deeper and deeper, I will be using my evolved brain to think of new sources of energy, or making fuel more efficient and nothing is going to stand in my way of achieving that.
Technology is a great tool, but that is all it is; a tool. I
hope that a look inside my thoughts really bothers some people who want to beat
me. I will gladly welcome any competition or conversation because it will make
me and the other person better. By relying on technology to solve problems that
are trivial tasks, I believe the time could be better spent putting great minds
together and truly changing the world. People are becoming weak and getting
lost in the crowd because technology is so new that I truly believe society has
not realized the drastic set back it could potentially be to innovation.
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McDaniel, Brandon T., and Jenny S. Radesky. “Technoference: Longitudinal Associations between Parent Technology Use, Parenting Stress, and Child Behavior Problems.” Pediatric Research 84, no. 2 (August 2018): 210–18. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-018-0052-6.
Moutsiana, C., N. Garrett, R. C. Clarke, R. B. Lotto, S.-J. Blakemore, and T. Sharot. “Human Development of the Ability to Learn from Bad News.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 41 (October 8, 2013): 16396–401. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1305631110.
Perez, Elvira, Rob Wortham, and Eugene Miakinkov. “When AI Goes to War: Youth Opinion, Fictional Reality and Autonomous Weapons.” ORBIT Journal 1, no. 1 (September 1, 2017). https://doi.org/10.29297/orbit.v1i1.19.
Russell, Stuart, and John Bohannon. “Artificial Intelligence. Fears of an AI Pioneer.” Science (New York, N.Y.) 349, no. 6245 (July 17, 2015): 252.
“Using Artificial Intelligence in New War Weapons.” New York Times (Online); New York, August 21, 2015. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1714232210/abstract/2A5D4266E2A84400PQ/1
Benjamin Swilley is a senior Applied & Engineering Sciences major at Wilkes University. He was born to William & Christine in Virginia Beach, VA where he spent the first 3 years of his life in military housing. Ben now resides in Mehoopany, PA with his parents while he finishes college. Ben enjoys spending time with his siblings as well as enjoying the company of his fiancé and their pitbull/shepherd mix Aesir. Ben enjoys spending time outdoors hunting or exploring the woods.