Technology's Effect on Families and Society in General
Today, everything has to be done faster and better; communication, transportation, shopping, work, education, and even socializing are speeded up. In short, the whole way of living is accelerating. The growth of technology seems like a big help. But does it really benefit our every day life? And how does it influence today’s American family life? Ironically, technology exists to help and relieve us from time-consuming tasks, but since technology is growing so rapidly, we have to adjust to a new accelerating lifestyle.
Indeed, for the last thirty years technology has been developing swiftly. And it didn’t take very long for several technology devices to enter the American households. The first word processor appeared around 1970 and a year later the first silicon chip came on the market. Four years later there was the first personal computer. In less than ten years, eight out of hundred American households had a computer. However, in just two years this number doubled. And in 1994, there was a computer in more than one out of every three American homes. Meanwhile, computer speed was increasing at a rate of 55% a year. And more and more people started to use e-mail and the Internet.
This increase in e-mail and Internet use follows from the higher need for fast and easy communication. Already in the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of cell phones and fax machines were sold. And ten years later this number had increased to 7 million a year. Electronic pagers are popular, too: in 1997 about 2 million pagers were sold.
Of course, these technologies are very convenient; they bring us what we need and want faster than ever before. But many families have become more and more dependent on them. The kids have to eat two-minute microwave meals again, because mom got a message from her employer on her pager that she has to do some extra work. Dad takes his laptop with him on the family trip, which is booked over the Internet. Such families try to keep up with the high-speed development of technical devices.
However, technological and social changes are taking place so rapidly that it gets harder to adapt to them. In 1970 this phenomenon was even recognized by Alvin Toffler as a disease. According to Toffler, “future shock,” as he called this disease, occurs when people are exposed to “too much change in too short a time.” “Future shock,” Toffler wrote, “is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future … [U]nless man quickly learns to control the rate of change in his personal affairs as well as in society at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptational breakdown.”
Although we might not see the adaptations to rapid changes as a disease, nowadays, we do notice the inconveniences, like stress. Along with the fast development of technology, stress increased as well. According to a national survey in 1986 by the Louis Harris Organization, one out of three...