•Brooke P• •Grace Christian Academy• •Bainbridge, GA• •Mrs. McRae•
Hello! I am a junior at Grace Christian Academy. I enjoy theater, singing, and art and have been participating in these activities since I was little! I also enjoy playing soccer and volleyball for my school and hanging out with my friends. I am an active member in GCA GEMS club, Grace Goes Green, Interact, FCA, and Student Government Association. I do these things while still maintaining a 4.0 GPA and member of the National Honor Society. I am honored to be a finalist in this competition! Writing has always one of the most important outlets of self expression in my life and I’m glad I get to share that!
The Primary Role of Technology is to Improve Humanity
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” This quote from Albert Einstein implies the foreboding truth regarding technology's impact on humanity. Throughout history, the prevalence of technology has been steadily increasing. Recent technology, including smartphones, TVs, the internet, etc., has radically changed the way human beings think and interact. Since its start-up in the early 2000s, social media has been advancing and becoming far more widespread. Millions of people worldwide are connected through social media platforms. This can easily be seen as a benefit of increasing technology. However, through social media, both polarization and hostility between different groups of people have also increased, namely throughout the last decade. Although the correlation between these two might go unnoticed at first, it is quite apparent that they have affected one another. It can be seen that there are definitely positive and negative impacts of technology. Negative impacts of technology, specifically social media, are that it has aided in the spread of polarization through algorithm groupings, influencers, and censorship. Positive impacts include better communication, healthcare, and industry.
Polarization through social media is a major downside of technological improvements. One of the major factors that aid in the spread of polarization through social media is algorithm groupings. An algorithm is a set of steps a computer uses to accomplish a task. In the context of social media, an algorithm is how a social platform determines which content to display at any given time to a particular user, according to blog.hootsuite.com. Thus, algorithms make it so that social media users are only seeing what the platform wants them to see, mainly for the purpose of entertainment. USA Today says that algorithms, “are now the most powerful curators of information, whose actions enable such manipulation by creating our fractured informational multiverse.” Algorithms divide people into different groups called “echo chambers.” These echo chambers are generally filled with people who share the same views, which only amplifies confirmation bias and leads to a more polarized way of thinking. Thus, harsh feelings towards one group to another increase. Furthermore, echo chambers are centralized around influencers.
Influencers play a significant part in the spread of polarization. Scientific American defines an influencer as “a young, wealthy person whose lifestyle is sponsored by brands like Instagram, TikTok or YouTube.” Influencers have the power to impact many people’s opinions, hence the name. These influencers spend hours upon hours working to gain publicity and popularity among social media users, and, for many, social media is a full-time job. Influencers post about topics that are most likely to gain publicity, bad or good, and these posts have the potential to reach everyone on the social media platform. Thus, they are considered the central node of social media.” Through social media, influencers generate conversation, drive engagement, and set cultural trends. Audiences are more receptive of social media influencers than celebrities. Influencers are early adopters of new products and services, creating desire amongst their audiences” (“The Power of Social Media Influencers in 2019: Cultural Trendsetters”). Examples of topics from recent political events include BLM protests, the 2020 Election, and climate change opinions, which can all be used by influencers to create controversy. Social media users follow influencers that they like or that share their views. Furthermore, people who follow these influencers think highly of them in some way and are going to listen. Scientific American claims that, “In centralized networks, biased influencers have a disproportionate impact on their community—enabling small rumors and suppositions to become amplified into widespread misconceptions and false beliefs.” Polarization is therefore increased through social media influencers posting biased opinions. Some influencers even have the power to prevent a post from being shared. These influencers also place societal pressure on young followers to be just like them. This could mean having a specific appearance, belief system, or anything of that sort. The youth of America has faced the negative consequences of these influencers with anxiety and depression levels that have never been seen before.
Censorship, along with algorithm groupings and influencers, also aids in political polarization. Censorship by social media platforms is definitely something that can be helpful. However, many of these platforms are suspected of using censorship for maximum profit. According to a study done by Pew Research Center, “roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults say it is very (37%) or somewhat (36%) likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable.” When a social media platform prevents one group from seeing a specific post, many people claim that they are threatening the right of free speech in America. This has become a massive debate in recent years. Republicans are claiming that these social media platforms lean toward liberal views and promote “biased” information to the public. Therefore, many conservative users of Facebook have even decided to delete their accounts and join less popular social platforms such as Parlor. There has now been a mass grouping of people with very similar views on one social media platform, and, thus, increases the commonality of one set of principles and beliefs. This leads to hostility between the different groups and, as this polarization increases, the tension will only get worse. As most things go, where there is dark there also is light. Although there are many negative aspects of its increase, technology also has its perks. Communication is a groundbreaking technological advancement. As William J. Clinton said, “New information and communications technologies can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, but only if such technologies are designed from the beginning so that everyone can use them. Given the explosive growth in the use of the World Wide Web for publishing, electronic commerce, lifelong learning and the delivery of government services, it is vital that the Web be accessible to everyone.” With phones, wifi, the internet, and social media people can easily connect with each other on a daily basis. Before technology improved, communicating with someone took days. However, the convenience of modern technology allows interaction in a second with people from all over the world. This also promotes a safer way of living. Dangerous situations can be stopped by reaching in a pocket and pressing a button. Businesses now look for people who are more “tech-savvy” because they are considered better communicators. According to the NYU Dispatch, “It’s not just the application of technology anymore that companies search for, it’s also knowing how to use it to communicate. Using technology to communicate effectively among people is a newer skill that not all workers have. Technology and digital communication have actually helped people with their communication skills and learning how to create messages that are understood in so many characters or less.” Overall, increased communication through technology saves both money and time.
Technology has also revolutionized the healthcare industry. Without modern technology, medicine would be very different. Innovators in medical technology have worked to improve the state of medicine and have saved countless lives in the process. Because of better technology, the quality of life has improved immensely. “In the healthcare industry, the dependence on medical technology cannot be overstated, and as a result of the development of these brilliant innovations, healthcare practitioners can continue to find ways to improve their practice – from better diagnosis, surgical procedures, and improved patient care” (“Medical Technology”). Even the seemingly irrelevant contributions of medical technology are still extremely important. Most medical businesses have now moved to a combination of in-person and virtual visits. Also, new medical information can be easily shared through the internet. Therefore, physicians have a wider base for research. Through this research, they have been able to develop specialized solutions for medical issues. “Through the use of technology in medical research, scientists have been able to examine diseases on a cellular level and produce antibodies against them. These vaccines against life-threatening diseases like malaria, polio, MMR, and more prevent the spread of disease and save thousands of lives all around the globe. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that vaccines save about 3 million lives per year, and prevent millions of others from contracting deadly viruses and diseases” (“Medical Technology”). Technology has improved, not only medicine, but other industries as well.
With the increase in communication, industry has increased as well. The basic principle of technology is to be more efficient and save energy and time. According to Industry Today, “This means that technology is able to ensure time is used in the best manner possible by cutting down production times and automating tedious as well as time-consuming tasks.” With new devices and machines, businesses can produce more products for a much cheaper price more creatively. Globalization is also an important factor in improved industry because of technology. Industries can advertise to very specific audiences very simply. Buying and selling has become simple through technology. Technology also allows businesses to be far less wasteful. This is very important in helping the environment and continuing to improve the state of humanity. There are many products to be held responsible for in each industry, and with the use of computerized systems, these products can be accounted for in an organized manner.
Algorithm groupings, influencers, and censorship are all factors that have contributed to polarization through social media and provide examples of the negative effects of technology. However, improved communication, healthcare, and industry are clear indicators of how technology has improved humanity. Technology has become something that humanity can rarely live without. The thought of this is scary. However, it also gives immense hope for what the future holds. Ideally, humanity will find a way to coexist with technology without becoming completely dependent upon it and continue to improve the conditions of the world. From the wise words of Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
- Centola, Damon. Why Social Media Makes Us More Polarized and How to Fix It. 15 Oct. 2020, www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-social-media-makes-us-more-polarized-and-ho w-to-fix-it/.
- “The Ultimate List of Social Media Definitions You Need to Know in 2020.” Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard, 29 July 2020, blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-glossary-definitions/.
- Smith, Robert Elliott. “My Social Media Feeds Look Different from Yours and It's Driving Political Polarization.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 2 Sept. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/09/02/social-media-election-bias-algorith ms-diversity-column/2121233001/.
- Vogels, Emily A., et al. Most Americans Think Social Media Sites Censor Political Viewpoints. 18 Sept. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/08/19/most-americans-think-social-media-sites-cens or-political-viewpoints/.
- “Medical Technology.” Healthcare Technology | Health Information Technology, 23 Dec. 2011, www.healthcarebusinesstech.com/medical-technology/#:~:text=Improving quality of life is,time enjoying a healthy life.
- Industry Today. “Manufacturing How Technology Improves The Industry - Industry Today %.” Industry Today, 30 Jan. 2020, industrytoday.com/manufacturing-how-technology-improves-the-industry/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20first%20ways,business%20is%20by%20maximizing%20efficiency.&text=This%20technology%20is%20transforming%20the,ensure%20greater%20flexibility %20in%20production.
- Dispatch. “Technology Has the Ability to Foster Better Communication Skills, Not Hinder Them.” The NYU Dispatch, 27 Aug. 2018, wp.nyu.edu/dispatch/2018/08/27/technology-has-the-ability-to-foster-better-communicati on-skills-not-hinder-them/#:~:text=Technology%20and%20digital%20communication% 20have,so%20many%20characters%20or%20less.&text=Basic%20skills%20within%20a n%20area,enhanced%20through%20use%20of%20technology.
- “The Power of Social Media Influencers in 2019: Cultural Trendsetters.” Mediakix, 8 Oct. 2019, mediakix.com/blog/power-of-social-media-influencers-trendsetters/#:~:text=Through%2 0social%20media%2C%20influencers%20generate,creating%20desire%20amongst%20t heir%20audiences.