Thursday, June 10, 2010

The debate rages on about the benefits and detriments of technology on our day-to-day lives.

Few could disagree with the fact that advances in technology have made our school, work and personal lives easier, maybe a bit more costly, but a price we are obviously willing to pay for convenience.

Technology can also be credited with increased safety and security on a variety of fronts, including the technology that helps protect us from dangers both foreign and domestic, environmental dangers and even right down to the increased safety in our vehicles and our homes.

However, specific technologies have also brought unforeseen negatives. One, often referred to as golden handcuffs, is when the perks of employment may include a cell phone and laptop computer. Great, bonus toys to go along with an exciting new career, but on further examination, most of the time the employer is more than willing to give up the items in exchange for 24/7, instant access to the employee.

Finally, to touch on just a few in a long list, there is the fact that the more involvement we have with technologically linked activities, the more likely we are to be less productive and less social.

Now I know what you are thinking, what do you mean less social? E-mail, texting, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, for example, are all outlets for social interaction.

True, but more and more studies are finding that the less face-to-face contact that people engage in, the more likely that their technologically driven social activities will be less rooted in realities.

People will not be wholly truthful about personal facts, which is most commonly seen in online dating sites, and the ability to use the different media to go on, and on, and on about a problem until it borders on obsession can blow things out of realistic proportion.

The results of a recent study that appeared in the February edition of Medicine & Health, Psychology and Psychiatry edition said that the first large-scale study of Internet usage by the University of Leeds reveals a correlation to Internet usage and depression.

“The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Catriona Morrison. “Our research indicates that excessive Internet use is associated with depression.”

To be fair, the researchers couldn’t definitively determine if Internet usage was the cause of depression or more-depressed people were drawn to the Internet, but one thing is for certain, there is no need to use technology to go looking for things to make you feel bad about yourself.

Recently, there has been one such depression-inducing app that has been brought to renewed life.

Houston-based Agora Technologies acquired and re-launched Qwitter, which is a web-based service that notifies users via e-mail when someone stops following them on Twitter, as well as informing them of the last comment before being “qwit.”

The notices read something like this:

“Janet Smyth stopped following you on Twitter after you posted this tweet:

Great sale at Shoe Mart today, and they even offered a coupon!

Whether Smyth was not a proponent of Shoe Mart, was anti-coupon, or really did think you were boring has little relevance to the fact that the initial reaction is disappointment and a feeling of rejection.

A person just can’t simply help but wonder what about the post may have caused such a reaction, and heaven forbid that a person loses a series of followers on a single tweet, there is now a whole new layer of self-doubt and depression waiting to happen.

I certainly wonder why anyone would willingly sign up to monitor the monitors in the first place, but then again, I am still trying to figure out why anybody really cares what everybody else is chirping about anyway.

“The boundaries of virtual and real-world relationships are being blurred,” is why Agora technologies CEO Brad Harris sees a need for Qwitter. And apparently the masses agree as over 3 million qwit notices were sent in the first month it was reactivated.

But Qwitter is not the only company to jump on the bandwagon. Now there is a new, experimental app titled TweetEffect. This too lets you know if someone stops following you and why, but the producers of this app have at least given a nod to the positive side and allows users to follow tweets that bring followers to you.

In the end, however, there is no hiding from the fact that social networking is here and will not only be here to stay but is proliferating. But Agora’s Harris has even pointed out that it is not everything the real thing is cracked up to be.

“People are generally polite to each other in face time, but what about the ever-increasing amount of time we spend at our computers with our friends online?”

And what about that? The fact that social networking is increasingly reducing the amount of time we spend in actual interaction with other people still concerns me, and there are many days when I long for a little polite interfacing with one of my peeps.