Technology has helped people create the world that we see around us. Beginning with the very own running of our homes, it has practically invaded us all. Gone are the days when people would sit at the table for breakfast while chatting without so much as a television set interrupting them.

That was so last century. Today, people wake up and the first thing they do is check their work e-mail, facebook and twitter accounts with kids starting their day with videogames and text messaging. Technology has shaken up plenty of life’s routines, but for many people it has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start to the end of the day.
For some people, technology has done more harm than good and has been nothing but a hindrance to developing inter-personal relationships. And whereas society has based some of its goals upon advances in technology, this may not be such a desired goal for those who cherish face-to-face conversations. With the current technological advances, society in general has become less tolerant, less motivated and increasingly lazy.
Lillian Mutesi, a Rwandan student, studying in South Africa says technology has as many advantages as it does disadvantages. “It is really helpful for some of us who like the easy way out; for example three quarters of the stuff I study comes from within South Africa but it’s amazing what search engines like Google can do for you,” she says.
Many would like to think that the internet is the best place to interact but this does not hold true for most.
Children these days are computer literate by the age of five and hardly get to enjoy childhood, the natural way. What happened to just being kids and playing around with dolls and balls? Now, all kids seem to be working on is an IQ that is way out of their age bracket.
“On the downside though, technology has been the cause of so many unemployed people in the world. Back in the day people needed secretaries and office messengers to do whatever work was desired but now computers have literally replaced most of them,” says Mutesi.
“It has affected our performance to some level as well. I mean, we are so used to abbreviating everything we write to the extent that some of my friends even use the same kind of hasty writing in test exams. You will be surprised at how bad spellings have become today. Computers provide everything and there is a whole new generation coming; one that will not survive without computers,” she adds.
However, Douglas Asiimwe, 30 years, begs to differ and insists that some of this technology is the best thing that has ever happen to mankind.
“Smart phones; there is just so much power and versatility in such a little package. I download everything I need at a click of a button. I use Google map to find my way. I take pictures on my phone and upload them for the whole world to see. BlackBerry phones come with high class insert Messenger that connects you to all users in the world that hold a BB. It really doesn’t get better than that,” comments Asiimwe.
It seems like almost everyday new studies come out that explain how persuasive the effects of technology and social media are in our lives. Much has been written about the dangers of Internet addiction.  From pornography to merely surfing the web, the Internet is clearly the television of the 21st century, an electronic drug that often yanks us away from the physical world.
Like any addiction, the real cost, for those truly addicted, is at the expense and quality of our relationships with others. We may enjoy online relationships using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, but the difference between these kinds of interactions with people in the physical world is clearly vast.
As long as we expect no more from these online relationships than what they have to offer: There is no good reason that exists as to why we can’t enjoy the power of social media sites to connect us efficiently to people we would otherwise not physically meet.
The problem, however, comes when we find ourselves subtly substituting electronic relationships for physical ones or mistaking our electronic relationships for physical ones.  We may feel that we are connecting effectively with others via the Internet, but too much electronic-relating paradoxically engenders a sense of social isolation.
The only thing we can do is to try to use technology in a reasonable way and so eliminate its bad influence on society. We should think long and hard on how to prepare the society for the changes in the daily lifestyles of humans. Increasing the use of technology instead of face-to-face interaction could in the long run have a grave negative influence on the human mind. Physical interaction is still the best way to understand people. This leaves no room for pre-concieved perceptions of individuals. After all, the human mind is deceptive.
It is most important to investigate this influence of technology on interpersonal behaviour, lest we become virtual humans with no sence of understanding or better still reading people’s feelings or facial expression. The effects of these factors could be fatal or vice versa.
By Rachel Garuka, The New Times


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