Digital downsides: 5 ways technology makes our lives harder
Owning a pocket-fitted supercomputer is an advantage that would make our ancestors envy the bone. There are two sides to the coin, however. 21st-century tech is made to help us do things without much attention to the effects it has on our mental health.
It’s almost redundant to proclaim that social media affects our daily lives. Virtually impossible to escape, various media platforms plague our daily lives, be it our work, leisure, or reaching out to loved ones.
Billions of people started the last decade with playful tags such as ‘YOLO’ (you only live once), unaware that the next decade will be marked by four letters with more somber meaning – ‘FOMO’ or fear of missing out.
FOMO describes the feeling of worry or anxiety that you miss out on an exciting experience and that others may lead a better life than you do. Or a sense most of us get after seeing photos of vacationing friends while stuck in our daily routines, made ever more mundane over the aeons of self-isolation.
Fear of missing out is not a new phenomenon and is closely related to the individual need to be satisfied with our competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Social media, however, amplifies FOMO with ‘highlight reels’ variously named on different social media sites.
Continuously comparing ourselves to others may impact our self-esteem and even conjure a feeling of hopelessness. Studies show that to avoid FOMO, people feel pressured to be constantly available and seek new connections, abandoning present ones. Unsurprisingly, the result is a heightened sense of isolation.
The goldfish effect
Unsurprisingly, with uninterrupted access to the web, people tend to rely on smartphones for information. So much so that easy access to vast troves of information might overload our senses. That causes our brain to store information poorly, leads to fatigue, and affects our attention span.
The National Centre for Biotechnology Information study in the US showed that the average human attention span had dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013.
Since attention span in young kids is shown to predict their math and reading abilities later on in life, shortening attention span can cause long-term problems that we don’t know the effects of.
Living in a world where news spreads faster than wildfire has its drawbacks. There’s little difference between whether the information being distributed is true or not.
Thus, a worrying amount of fake news starts to circulate online. Even if we forget the political ramifications spreading lies has on societies globally, the coronavirus pandemic has shown what damage online lies can have.
Dubbed ‘infodemic’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), it has taken hundreds of lives globally. A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene showed that misinformation on COVID-19 killed at least 800 people, with 5,800 hospitalized.
With all things digital embedded into our daily lives, concerns about our safety online become a part of our existence. Predictably, constant fear of personal details leaking online is a cause of anxiety, as a recent study on data privacy shows.
Even with our data well secured, there are ways threat actors employ artificial intelligence to create deepfake pictures to shame and blackmail people. For example, a 2019 report on deepfakes by Sensity, an Amsterdam-based visual threat intelligence company, found that the vast majority of deepfakes online are used for porn.
Moreover, a report by the UCL, published in August 2020, claims that fake audio and video content with extortion applications is among the top crimes of the future that begins now. There are even cases where AI-powered voice generators were used to steal hundreds of thousands from unsuspecting victims.
With people using ever more password-protected accounts, anxiety over lost passwords is slowly creeping in to complement other digital woes a modern life is full of. A recent survey shows that a third of respondents feel that recovering a lost password can be as stressful as losing employment.
Participants claim that owning multiple password-protected accounts can be tricky since it’s not easy to remember all the passwords. On the other hand, it’s anxiety-inducing and unsafe to use the same password for different accounts.
This April, the CyberNews investigation team analyzed over 15 billion passwords leaked from multiple data breaches. The research shows that most common passwords are laughably easy to crack, with all-time hits like ‘123456’ topping the list.
There are much better ways to create a strong password. For example, making up a unique phrase and applying various symbols for a more substantial effect.
The best way, however, would be using a password manager, a tool that helps to create strong passwords you don’t even have to remember. Take a look at our team’s list for the best free password managers if you’re interested.
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