The Light and Shadow of Digital Technologies We Live With – part II

Many of the great values of digital technologies (probably all) have a shadow side. My view is similar to Jung’s; I do not see these shadows as wholly bad, because they enable us to see the light. If we do not integrate the darker side, the lighter side will seem less bright. We need the instinctive, energetic dark side to benefit from the light side. I will focus on digital technologies, especially on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet, concentrating more on the shadows because we are less aware of them.

 

We can contact anybody and be contacted by anybody at any time (esp. by mobile)

 

“There is an impression that we are constantly reachable and that it’s always ok to contact us. My parents were deeply hurt when I went offline when my daughter had an allergic reaction, and I did not pick up the phone. They had called me 50 times!”

 

  • We are distracted from work or personal time, especially when notifications and ringing options are turned on;
  • Our plans are constantly being changed – changes are too easy when everyone has a mobile;
  • Other people are worried or angry when they cannot contact us;
  • We feel guilty or bad when we do not respond to others because we are offline or outside the mobile network;
  • It is too easy to be reached. Adults and children alike lose their freedom;
  • All too frequently, the issue is not digital technologies but our relationship to other people. For example, why do our parents check on us every day when we are adults? Why do they call when we are outside with friends and it is not yet time to go home? Don't they trust us?

 

Being online is useful. We can find valuable information, contact other people, control things like the heating remotely, etc.

 

“I sometimes check emails and do things on my smartphone more often than I want to. It is too easy to use the internet on my smartphone, so sometimes I use it when I am too lazy to turn on the computer.”

 

  • We have problems concentrating, because the online world is too interesting, and it’s easy to procrastinate;
  • The internet is a dangerous place, full of aggression, hoaxes, hatred and other troublesome content (this is especially risky for children with unlimited access);
  • Other people know more and more about us (e.g. through Facebook) and we cannot influence some of the content other people spread about us;
  • It's too difficult to resist the temptation to go online at any time from a smartphone or tablet.

 

Digital technologies help us stay in relationships and communicate easily

 

“I think it was better before mobiles. I often see people in a coffee bar who aren't talking to each other, just watching and sharing videos or on Facebook. Why did they bother to meet?”

 

  • We often pay more attention to other people online or electronic content than to the real people we are with.  If we do not pay full attention to anything or anybody, our relationships and communication may deteriorate;
  • Younger people especially have problems with “likes” (or the lack of them) on social networks. Social networks are also troublesome for couples who split up, and gossip may spread very quickly;
  • Technologies can have a negative impact on intimacy. Some people even check messages or answer the phone during the most private moments (see for example, Durex's “#Connect” video on YouTube).

 

When digital technologies work, they are very useful

 

“When the internet is down, it’s like the end of the world. People at work start walking in the corridors, not knowing what to do. This is even worse when there is a power failure. Instead of being happy that they can concentrate on reading or being with colleagues, they are terrified.”

 

  • Many times, digital technologies do not work as well as we wish to, and our reliance on them can ruin our teaching, our work, etc.;
  • The internet may become sluggish, and technologies start to show their age. When it takes a long time to start the system up or updating it, we may become frustrated as we seem not to expect this;
  • Smartphones and tablets are primarily individual devices full of personal information (emails, SMS, contacts, etc.). When notifications are on, other people can see a lot of information about who is writing to us, and about what, and it is much harder to secure these devices than a laptop.

 

How to weaken the darker side of digital technologies

 

In order to weaken the darker side, we must be aware of the shadow and explore it carefully. Without an understanding of the darker side, it may be difficult for us to take suitable precautions.

 

1) Turn off notifications when you want to focus on what you are doing at the moment. Read your messages at certain times only. You may also consider having a separate private number that only a few people know.

 

2) Learn not to respond constantly to non-urgent issues. Most things will wait. Actually, almost everything will wait. Try to enjoy a continuous conversation when you want one, or when somebody else needs one.

 

3) Have an unlimited mobile tariff. You can then pick up the phone only when you want to, and respond to phone calls and messages at times that are suitable for you.

 

4) Consider having frequent short (and occasional longer) digital holidays. For example being offline in the countryside restores our attention and other resources.

 

5) Do not take your smartphone to the pub, keep it in flight mode or at least turn the notifications off. (This will teach other people to be on time.)

 

6) Do not rely on technologies; sometimes (from my experience quite often) they do not work well or at all. For example, a lecturer should be able to make a presentation without PowerPoint, which is often overused or used badly. People pay more attention to a human being than a set of slides.

 

7) Children should be protected from unlimited and borderless use of digital technologies. They have not yet developed the necessary social skills or interests – later on, they can start using digital technologies with less risk of becoming addicted or suffering from bad communication. The later they start the better, and they should be restricted to some activities only and for a limited time. (Note: Many parents are responsible for their children's unhealthy use of digital technologies, using tablets and phones as an "electronic babysitter". A healthy approach would be to teach children to play alone – or just let them get on with it, because most children know how to play alone quite well. I do not want to say that children should never watch or play with any digital technology, just that they should not do it too often because they may not develop their imaginations and may lose the ability to play alone or with siblings.)

 

8) Every form of communication and digital technology can be used well or badly. For example, a letter (whether handwritten or emailed) is great for deep thoughts and feelings that do not need to be promptly responded to. Email is good for quick communication, but we should try not to send too many of them. SMS is good for letting somebody know something brief – but without a response we can be never sure that they got it. Chats are great for discussions (e.g. research chats, where a respondent or a group of respondents have enough time to think about their answers and the researcher does not need to transcribe the conversation). However, we will not pick up on nonverbal communication in a chat, and this can lead to misunderstandings. In conclusion, the next time you want to communicate, simply ask yourself, is this the right technology I should use? Do I use it too much? Should I wait for more information, so that I can write only one email instead of five? Would it be better and more efficient to meet in person or call?

 

Getting to know the shadows of ourselves and digital technologies is an endless task, full of ups and downs. I wish you good luck on your journey, and I hope that I have been able to help a little.

 

Note: Quotations used in the text have been slightly edited for concision and clarity. No significant details were distorted, and all quotations were anonymized. Consent from all participants was received.

 

Recommended reading

 

  1. Research-based article about the light and shadowss of digital technologies (focused especially on smartphones, tablet, laptop, PC, and internet). Czech language only. This text is based on it // Neusar, A. (2017). Stín smartphonu, notebooku, internetu a dalších vymožeností, se kterými žijeme [The Shadow of Smartphones, Laptops, the Internet, and Other Conveniences We Live With]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ales_Neusar/publications
  2. Popular science book about the use and misuse of our bodies from a Harvard University professor. Topics include e.g., what we eat; how too much comfort, sitting, being inside etc. may be disastrous for our body. // Lieberman, D. E. (2013). The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease.
  3. Research on Israeli judges and their decisions. // Original article: Danziger, S., Levav, J., & Avnaim-Pesso, L. (2011). Extraneous factors in judicial decisions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Popularization of the research here: Yong, E. (2011). Justice is served, but more so after lunch: how food-breaks sway the decisions of judges.
  4. A dissertation about the shadow of technology, comparing Jung and post-Jung literature, and concurrent knowledge on use and overuse of technologies. I did not know of this study before I had finished my research and drafted my article, but we independently had similar ideas. // Beier, M. A. (2014). The shadow of technology. Saybrook University.
  5. A book about the positive effect of nature on us, e.g. restoring our attention and other mental resources. // Jordan, M. (2015). Nature and therapy.
  6. Psychologist and popular science writer Adam Alter explains in his latest book why new digital technologies are so addictive. // Alter, A. (2017). Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.
  7. There are many books about our inability to be rational (sometimes it is not a good idea to be too rational in some areas), including three written by the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely. // Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Ariely, D. (2010). Predictably Irrational. Ariely, D. (2015). Irrationally Yours.
  8. Quotations of C. G. Jung. // Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology, CW 10, Civilization in Transition (1959); Psychology and Religion. CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East (1938).
  9. "Digital immigrant" and "digital native" are terms coined by Marc Prensky // Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Available from: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
  10. A one-sided book proposing that digital technologies are evil and destroy our abilities. In many aspects, Spitzer is right – e.g. if we do not use our memory and rely only on technologies, we slowly lose our abilities. In this aspect, it is similar to Lieberman, who also says that by not using some of our abilities, we will slowly lose them or they will not develop at all. On the other hand, losing our abilities is not a necessary outcome (we can develop them differently) and we can gain much from new technologies as well (but we should be careful). // Spitzer, M. (2012). Digitale Demenz. In Czech: Digitální demence (2014).
Written by: 

Follow us

Go to top