For many, the use of communication technology has become a daily activity of life- it is often one of the last things they see before they go to sleep, and one of the first things they see when they wake up in the morning. Recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that almost all (97%) of Americans own some kind of cell phone, and 85% of Americans own a smartphone. Besides phones, their research shows that about ¾ of American adults own a computer and about half own a tablet, meaning that it is common to use a range of devices (Pew Research Center, 2021). In addition to, and partially due to, the widespread device ownership, many adults report that they go online on a daily basis, some reporting that they are online “almost constantly” (Perrin and Atske, 2021). With the increase in device ownership and internet use, it is critical to ask what the implications of such heavy use of communication technology are. We are always plugged in, but often put the potential risks of dependent technology use aside due to the convenience, entertainment or simple fixation of using our devices.
The growing dependence on technology undoubtedly has effects beyond what one can see, including effects on our social interactions, mental health, physical health and more. Analysis of some complex factors, demographics and culture, reveals that certain groups of people, educated, employed and social media users, may be more likely to have a technology addiction, and that technology dependence is developed and used differently across cultures. In regard to the implications of technology dependence, the attention spans of technology users is decreasing and users are becoming increasingly fatigued, which could have lasting effects on interactions and relationships with others. In regard to mental health, there are strong links between social media addiction and depression and anxiety symptoms, showing some negative effects of use of these platforms, and suggesting that users should moderate their own social media use. Sleep patterns are often interrupted by the use of technology throughout the day and before bed, which could lead to more severe health issues in technology addicts. However, not all technology dependence is bad, and it is a way for certain groups of people to maintain relationships via internet platforms. Many authors suggest that in moderation and when used for its intended purposes, the internet and social media can be healthy and helpful for users, and that users should be aware of their technology use. The conversation about technology dependence integrates into many other topics in the realm of the effects of technology on society. For example, the increased dependence on and use of technology could make the digital divide more severe, as some groups may not have access to the newest devices or access to broadband internet. If users are relying on unreliable internet sources for news, society runs the risk of becoming increasingly misinformed. The list goes on, and it is clear that the dependence on technology has the power to impact many parts of society’s communication, unfortunately in negative ways. In a more positive light, technology can be used to improve healthcare, to assist individuals with tasks that they may not be able to complete on their own and more. Increased technology use has strong potential to be a tool to fight biases, spread positive messages and give people a voice to stand up for what they believe in, should we allow it to have this positive impact.