Published!!

What a crazy and busy year!! But, it is finally summer, so I have time to read and write for fun! 

I wanted to make my first post of the summer highlighting something exciting that happened to me this spring, and that is…I have officially been PUBLISHED!! (…for the first time in my life, not counting editing and writing for school newspapers, and one Letter to the Editor in the Cincinnati Enquirer) After a year long editing process my article, called Technology: Our Cyber Bully, was finally put on Commonplace, an online journal for college students.  I was so ecstatic!

Here’s to many more fantastic moments like this :) 

If the link doesn’t work for you, here’s a copy of it to read, below:

Technology is everywhere we look—in a very real way, we are all constantly “wired in.”  It seems as if these days, people are so focused with their devices, their networks, their text messages, and their various digital sources of instant, social interaction that they forget to live in reality.  Granted, technology can be a beautiful thing.  It allows us to be instantly informed of the news of the day.  It allows us to look up anything we want to know at the drop of a hat.  Technology has made it possible for us to connect with people all over the world; to share ideas; to learn; to spread awareness of issues and even to enact change.  Nonetheless, we must consider that sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.  We all need to start taking responsibility for ourselves and to stop abusing what could be the most beneficial innovations of the technological age.

There are four main issues in our culture that stem from technology use and distraction. These are: rudeness/lack of morals, loss of skills for “the real world,” texting while driving, and cyberbullying. Although I will begin this essay by discussing the first two problems, the last two issues are also important because they are sometimes overlooked. They are considered trite, and the world has become desensitized to them.  Yet, I believe, they are the most influential technology-related problems because these issues cause emotional, psychological, and physical harm.

Rudeness and incivility have become increasingly prevalent issues in our society; some of these stem from technology being used at improper times and causing a lack of effort to teach manners.  Cell phones are being used during graduations, weddings, church services and even funerals.  Obnoxiously loud phone conversations have become the norm. According to CNN News, “a recent poll by market research company Synovate showed that 70% of 1,000 respondents observed manner-less technology use in others at least on a daily basis.”  This constant impolite behavior is tarnishing the experiences of others around us.  Also, generations of families are using electronics to such excess that they aren’t even sitting down to dinner together.  Kids zone-out while texting and listening to their iPod.  Parents work on their computer or watch TV rather than interacting with their kids.  The dinner table used to be a place where kids could develop their social and speaking skills and where adults could talk and administer lessons to their children.  Without this time, modern children could become inept in social settings because they lack proper training in manners and decorum.

In this world of quantity over quality and write-it-in-140-characters-or-less, some people have become satisfied with only reading something if it is in the form of a status update, an instant message or a tweet.  What is worse, a few too many college students are graduating without the ability to read and write properly. The National Center for Education Statistics did a survey of 19,000 people age 16 or older by testing their basic reading and analyzing skills and it resulted in the shocking realization that “only 31% of college graduates surveyed could read a complex book and extrapolate it.”  This illiteracy can be attributed in part to the misspelling and shorthand used in text messages and emails.  In part, this is also because children do not read as much as they could.  Many do not want to; they would rather get the Spark Notes or watch the movie.  They then spend their time surfing the Internet or watching television programs.

In addition, people are constantly on the computer and admit to neglecting their work.  Adults’ business does not get accomplished and kids’ grades suffer.  This constant online time is causing a lack of skills in face-to-face communication, inter-personal relations, and creativity.  Add this to the rising illiteracy rates in our society and we could have generations growing up unable to attain good jobs and function upon entering the real world.

But the real danger of technology overuse does not solely lie in the office or classroom.  Thousands of people are killed or injured each year in car crashes because someone was talking on the phone or text messaging behind the wheel.  These technological distractions may cause a person to neglect the road and forget to control the vehicle.  The combination of the two can lead to potentially life-threatening car accidents.  In fact, in a study done by the University of Utah’s Applied Cognition Laboratory, researchers found that distracted driving is worse than drunk driving in terms of reaction time.  In 2009 alone, 5,474 people were killed in these types of accidents, according to distraction.gov.

Unfortunately, accidental death is not the only danger that technology poses today.  Another problem is aggressive and hateful emails, IMs, or websites, which are now utilized as a new and faster medium for bullies to victimize others.  Cyberbullying, technology’s new phenomenon, is causing emotional harm and trauma to our nation’s youngest citizens.  Bullies can spread damaging lies about their prey, thus causing the latter to have lower self-esteem and harbor feelings of fear and self-devaluation.  This has led to attempted suicides (countless suicides having been successful) among America’s teens.  According to “Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide” (for the Cyberbullying Research Center), 20% of respondents considered suicide after cyberbullying, and 19% reported actually trying to do it (in a sample group of 2,000 random school-age people from popular areas of the US).

All of this may be alarming, but the threat of death should not be the only encouragement to reduce our dependence on technology.  All of these issues come from a culture of people that are moving too fast for their own good.  In reality, we could all benefit from being less dependent on technology.  We could put away our cell phones and iPods when driving, walking around, or eating at the dinner table.  We could tell people we have to call them back if we answer our phones in a public space.  We could put work and scholarship before Facebook.  We could turn off the TV and go enjoy a classic piece of literature.  If we were all to just put down our devices for a short while and pull our eyes away from our phones and television screens, we might save some lives, treat everyone a little nicer, pay attention to the things that really matter, and succeed more in schoolwork and in life. 

Everyone is always saying that they yearn for a simpler time; adults are always talking about the “good ‘ol days.”  I am not saying we need to go back to the times of rock-around-the-clock, two-straws-in-a-milkshake, and Leave It to Beaver.  Yet, since the advent of our new high-tech world, people have become oblivious to those around them. These problems continue to occur, and our world is seemingly desensitized to it all.  What’s worse, people don’t seem to care about how their overuse of technology affects others, or that people die because of it.  In a world already fraught with crime, war, and demoralizing values, overusing technology just aids in the decline of our sense of obligation to others. In essence, if we used technology a little less, the world might become a much better place.