Sun. Jan 22nd, 2023

Social Impacts of computing technology

Increasing reliance on social networking for human interaction

Technology has automated contact and communication between clients and businesses – whether automated phone systems, or customer service, much business communication is now through social networking: this is because it is a powerful communication platform, and makes targeting information to groups of users fast, cheap and easy.

Technology has also pushed individuals towards social networking for interaction: as new data services become available (3G, 4G, 5G, WiFi) applications have been developed to take advantage of these. Communication that used to be chargeable (for example test messages, multi media images) became free, as communication decoupled from the phone networks.

Consequences of lack of social skills and increased isolation

The availability of digital technology (often referred to as the digital divide) can mean that individuals do not all have fair and equal access to communication tools. Despite recent events that generated a massive increase in the numbers of people working remotely, many surveys also show a corresponding rise in the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Digital communication is not the same as being in physical presence of other people.

Additionally, users who do not have to interact in person may suffer from a loss of, or failure to develop, appropriate social skills. This is well documented in the development of children throughout the periods of lockdown resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Consequences of poorly formed social skills can be manifested in difficulties working with other people (teamwork). Increased isolation can lead to mental health issues, including depression and suicide.

Health and age-related issues

Increasing use of computing devices has short and long term health issues.

In the short term, incorrect posture can lead to back and neck issues, as well as injuries to limbs, such as RSI.

Longer term, postural deficiencies can lead to more permanent and severe curvature of the spine, or RSI which requires medical treatment.

A lifetime spent making excessive use of computing devices can lead to a lack of physical development or exercise, which can lead to long term health problems.

When younger children overuse technology, they can be at risk of failing to develop proper social skills, as well as risking damage to their development: both eyesight and brain function can be affected.

Ease of maintaining contacts, removal of geographical barriers

Social media and other communication technologies have made maintaining contact with distant people far easier. No longer do you need the phone number of each person you want to communicate with: in many cases, social media platforms can automate this task for you, showing you other people with whom you are likely to have a connection.

Geographical barriers are also now a legacy problem: in the days of text messaging and multi-media messaging, phone calls were conducted over a phone network, as were text messages and MMS. This meant the familiar ‘local, national and international’ call rates were prevalent. The shift towards internet-backed systems has led to all communication being treated equal – using VoIP services no longer results in call charges, international charges and so on.