Technology over the past few decades has become a large part of today’s society. New forms of technology are constantly being produced and old forms are continuously innovated. One cannot purchase something without a new model coming out shortly after. For example, I bought the iPhone 4 this summer, 3 months later out comes the iPhone 4S. Updated versions of technology are always being released; society tends to upgrade constantly even though their old models were in good condition.
This new obsession with technology is particularly evident in teenage generations. Adults often complain about teens constantly texting, and that text lingo has ruined proper english and grammar skills. Less communication is taking place in person or by talking on the phone as texting becomes more popular. The amount of text messages sent last year increased by 50%; data messaging surpassed voice messaging as well. The average length of a phone call decreased from 2.27 minutes to a mere 1.81 minutes. On average, 1,500 text messages are sent a month per cell phone user. The biggest contributor to this cell phone usage increase is, of course, the teenage generation.
Text messaging is not the only contributor to the increased usage of technology. Many other individuals play video games, spend time on the internet, or go on social networking sites such as Facebook. These new forms of entertainment have replaced pervious forms that involved social contact such as board games, or even bowling with friends. Once again, the major contributor to the success of these new forms of entertainment is the teenage generation. The association of members of youth with technology and a new dependence on technology has created much controversy regarding the impact of technology on social life.
Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, claims that community ties are decreasing as the advancements in technology increase. He believes that society is becoming individualized as more members gain interest in technology; this in turn lessens social capital, which is crucial in a vibrant democracy. He accredits the lack of social contact to the fact people are always using a form of technology, whether it is watching television, playing video games, or text messaging, rather than having personal contact with members of their society.
While technology has seemed to decrease in physical social contact, it has increased social contact in other ways. It is no longer necessary to write a letter to someone you cannot see in person in order to tell them information. Modern technology has allowed for many other ways of communication other then face to face. Users of technology can chat online, send text messages or emails to each other, as well as chat with others while playing a video game online. Because of advancements in technology, there is now the ability to instantaneously communicate with others from all over the world. This ability has created a form of global interconnectedness.
While social contact still exists, what has this done to social capital, or the organizations and networks that create cooperation in a democracy? Has technology destroyed a sense of community or has it strengthened these bonds?