Perhaps a seemingly ridiculous and controversial question at first glance, but did you find yourself immediately going into defense mode? Maybe there was a pause, or an internal outcry asserting that you are not a mere tool of technology; instead, technology is your tool.
This is not a clickbait headline designed to grab your attention; it is rather a call to shift our perspective. I am old enough to recall the promises technology held—the prospect of a better quality of life for all, reduced workloads, enhanced connectivity, improved living standards, and shorter workweeks. How many of us can honestly claim to be better off thanks to technology?
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, but at some juncture, many of us became tools of technology, instead of the other way around. I acknowledge the controversial nature of this statement, and yet, as I sit here at my computer, allowing Outlook to correct my spelling and contemplating what insights ChatGPT might offer, I find it somewhat hypocritical. Here lies my inquiry, my challenge, and my sincere hope: Can we all simply view and use technology as a tool? Let us frame technology as a tool, utilize it as such, and genuinely regain control over our own lives.
The other day I went on a delightful bike ride with an amazing group of individuals called the Westboro Bike Gang. As we pedaled along, we engaged in conversation, savored the fresh air, and admired the beauty surrounding us. It was a moment of genuine connection, undisturbed by disruptions—a simple pleasure reminiscent of days gone by. What struck me as interesting was the number of times I had to pause and adjust my course due to a group of geese and their goslings. These goslings instinctively followed their parents, paying no mind to the obvious danger posed by my 200-pound bike hurtling towards them at 30 kilometers per hour. Rather than being annoyed, I found their conviction, their unity, and their modeling behavior quite amusing. It was nature functioning as nature intended.
Now, let’s contrast this with the experience of a human child today. Are children unconsciously following their parents as they once did, or has their attachment shifted to their chosen device? Imagine my reaction if those goslings, deeply absorbed in their iPhones, blocked my path during my bike ride, refusing to look up. Would I maneuver around them? Of course, but would it be with admiration and curiosity, or with condemnation?
The attachment of a child to a legitimate parental figure has significantly diminished due to our technology addiction, and consequently, our collective instinct to safeguard that bond has eroded. As a result, we find ourselves lacking compassion for a child who is so engrossed in her iPad that she walks in our path, misses an opportunity to engage, and ultimately experiences a more hostile world that drives her deeper into the safety of her augmented reality. It’s insidious, but it represents the very essence of a feedback loop.
The scientific evidence on the impact of technology on brain development and the crucial role of early attachment and bonding is undeniable. Technology stands in opposition to the fundamental processes that shape us as social beings. The sheer hypocrisy is mind-boggling: we are all too preoccupied with technology to fulfill our parental responsibilities, so we delegate the task of parenting to technology. Take a moment to pause and reflect on it. It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?
The mental health crisis we face today is well-documented and widespread. Issues such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders linked to attachment theory, and more, have become endemic. But what is happening here? Social media, for one, has been proven to have a profound impact on our brains. We find ourselves constantly seeking that next dopamine hit, eagerly awaiting likes, comments, and replies. It fosters a culture of narcissism, where roughly 80% of the content we share is self-focused. Now, picture a real-life conversation with a friend who dominates 80% of the discussion by talking about themselves. How long would that conversation last? It’s a stark contrast. To make matters worse, our lives on social media are carefully curated, displaying only the filtered pictures, magical moments, and the best aspects of our existence. This creates a painful comparison bias. We can’t help but think, “Wow, Mr. Smith’s life looks so much better than mine.” And as a result, depression often ensues.
As many of you already know, I have a transgender daughter named Tokyo. She is an incredible gift and one of my greatest teachers, and I love her deeply. Therefore, the anti-trans rally outside our children’s schools, Broadview and Nepean, held particular significance for me last week. I attended as part of the counter protest and witnessed an unsettling scene. There was a little 8-year-old boy stomping on a pride flag while his mother cheered him on, shouting expletives I never expected a child his age to know, let alone to be shouting these words at strangers.
The stratification of ideology feels to be at an all-time high and tolerance for a tribe that you do not identify with as your own at an all-time low. It’s astonishing how algorithms can reinforce and even deepen our existing beliefs. We might assume that unlimited access to information would foster tolerance and bridge gaps, but instead, the internet has achieved the opposite effect. Algorithms become self-fulfilling prophecies, turning the rhetoric of a specific tribe into an absolute truth rather than one perspective among many. And anyone who doesn’t align with our ideology is swiftly canceled. Is this the bridge we envisioned the internet to be? Is it truly uniting or further dividing the world? It exploits our inherent biases.
Whether it is for the sake of our children, our mental well-being, or creating a more harmonious world, the truth is self-evident: the tail has been wagging the dog for far too long, and it’s time to stop. We mustn’t allow complacency to govern our relationship with technology, with its love-hate dynamic. The critical and often overlooked distinction is that technology must serve as a tool—one that we consciously call upon when needed. In this era of artificial intelligence and all its implications, we must rebalance the power dynamic and reclaim the driver’s seat in our own lives.