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How has technology affected our social lifestyles?

18th October 2015 Print

For many of us, our daily pattern starts with this: wake up, switch on the smartphone, and check email and social media. For many of us, that is how our day ends – and how we use virtually every spare second of the day, too. It's a lifestyle which has been embraced with open arms by avid techno-geeks on one hand and acidly spurned by Neo-Luddites (somewhat a contradiction in terms) alike. But there is no denying the fact that technology has created a substantial impact on our social lives, right down to the way our brains process interaction with others.

Expanding our perspective, or limiting our views?

If there is one aspect of social media we can all agree on, it's the incredible potential it has to reach and resonate with thousands of people across the globe. Accessibility is a major player, and from online education to public gaming forums, being able to meet new people and learn new subjects – as well as “attend” live events through real time streaming – has helped us to expand our world as well as manage our time better. Socially, we have more power on the Internet – we can disclose as much information about ourselves (following reasonable safety parameters) as we like. Not facing the same social pressures and prejudices empowers us, but at the same time, it can also isolate us when we choose this particular field of social play over the one in the non-virtual or “real world”, as some critics choose to call it.

But the virtual world is a big part of our real world, now. And as technology becomes more streamlined and efficient, our social demands are increasing along with our professional ones. If you're a regular Tweeter with a lot of followers, for instance, you are expected to keep the goods coming; if you're a Facebooker, you have no excuse for not posting on the event you've been invited to (though everyone ignores it from time to time). You might not have as much time to meet and greet friends the traditional way, but you can stay in touch with people more easily than before; and with messaging devices available on laptops, tablets, smartphones and multiple apps to compliment them in this era of on-the-go, ultra-mobility, accessing media is easier than ever. Yes, social media and the infamous selfie may have transformed some of us into narcissists and trolls, but it's also enabled us to share our passions and interests, reach out to others, and even spur on revolutions. 

Celebrities have used networking platforms to maximize their exposure, and we are able to share a sliver of “social” activities with people and places we once could but dream of. And because our hardware is made to travel, we can receive and deliver content with a few connecting wires and the click of a button. This isn't just essential for business, but the power of publishing and hosting grass-roots entertainment – a big factor in the increasing indie scene – plays a huge role. It's easy to sweep your friends and fans away with some of the tech on offer (such as the systems at and not only play an event in your own bespoke fashion, but increase your fan base as well – a core component of society which is making up a large portion of new friendships and relationships.

It's all in the head

But it's not just lifestyle that technology has affected. Our brains have adapted to the constant influx of instant information we have at our fingertips and how we process it. Our minds hold onto info for reduced periods, and the links in our brains that are vital in developing social skills can be weakened over a time where virtual interaction takes the place of face-to-face activity, according to researchers at UCLA. This is partly because the need for speed does not allow us to become deeply immersed in content that is readily available via technology. But like music and videogames, condemning the medium isn't the answer. It's about content and habit.

While we may not have the capability to completely control our agency over technology, we can filter degrees of it and maintain a balance in how we use it. Demanding more challenging content and investing in meaningful discussions will only benefit our online social lives, and these experiences can enhance our lives in the offline world. But most importantly, we can stay in touch and “connected” with the more essential things in life by using technology as a means to appreciate it rather than replace it, be it a spectacular sunrise by Instagram or another intrepid run accompanied by a hearty fitness app.