In the 1989 film, “Back To The Future II,” Marty McFly and Doc travel to Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, to save the day. The film imagines a futuristic world straight out of a comic book complete with flying cars and hoverboards.
In 2019, we don’t have flying cars but self-driving cars, touchscreen phones that can be opened by face scans, social media apps that can have detrimental effects on self confidence and home assistants that can turn on your lights so you don’t have to.
And who knows what will be dreamed up and created in the years to come.
The 2010s will conclude Dec. 31, 2019, and close the door on a decade that has seen large technological developments, creations and inventions that have radically changed the way we live our day-to-day lives.
No one could have been able to predict the emergence of streaming media, social media and the dependence on the internet. Take a glance at the people around you and most people have their eyes glued to their phones. Ask someone what they did over a long weekend and they are likely to tell you they binge-watched their favorite television show. Screens are our lives, and we applaud those who are able to disconnect themselves from them for a mere hour.
Facebook launched in 2004 and was a site first used among college students at Ivy League institutions before the greater public would have access to it. It wouldn’t become a frequently-visited social media website for our generation until the early 2010s when many of us turned 13 — Facebook’s age requirement for making an account.
It is possible that many of our peers made accounts before they were 13 and just faked their ages, but the frequent use of the site to communicate with friends and family was undoubtedly in the beginning of this decade.
Other social media apps like Twitter, Instagram and Vine emerged thereafter in our middle school years and we began to become engulfed in the social media bubble. Twitter allowed access to the celebrities, sports and other pop culture we were fans of. Instagram gave us the opportunity to share photos exclusively and for a brief time without concern over the amount of likes we had or what influencers were posting. Vine allowed us to scroll for hours at videos we found funny and would quote for years following.
The iPhone, one of the most widely used smartphones, was actually first unveiled in 2007, but the majority of its 12 updates have occurred in this decade. You can surf the web, watch your favorite television show, track how many steps you’ve taken in a day, listen to music, order a car to pick you up, deposit a check to your bank or even store your credit and debit cards for easy access. None of that is possible with a flip phone. You might have been able to take a photo, but it wouldn’t have been high-quality Instagram content.
In 2012, a 30-minute video titled Kony 2012 would be released on YouTube and be successful in attracting the attention of millions. The video was made by the organization Invisible Children, a group founded in 2004 to bring awareness to the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central Africa region and it’s leader Joseph Kony. The video went viral and mobilized thousands to support the video’s goals of having Joseph Kony arrested by the end of 2012 including celebrities like Justin Bieber, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj.
The video’s impact and ability to go viral in a small period of time illustrate how fast information moves in this decade. The message of Stop Kony wouldn’t have been able to travel as fast in a world with dial-up internet or the archaic Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, in almost predictable fashion, the viral nature of the video failed to get any actual movements going and most people have forgotten about it seven years later.
The entertainment side of social media is an obvious positive of its creation but the blatant negative is the dependence and the adverse effect on mental health. How many times have you sat in a public place like an airport or restaurant and seen a young child with their eyes glued to their parents iPad or smartphone, either watching a film or playing a game? It’s startling to say the least.
In April of this year, the World Health Organization issued a set of guidelines that read, “Children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.”
According to the New York Times, the guidelines also state that, “infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 should not have more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” each day.”
Researchers have admitted that the research on screen time and its effects is small due to the rapid development of technology in comparison to the time span of most studies.
Nevertheless, most can agree that staring at a screen for long intervals of time can’t be good for your health. That’s both physical and mental health.
Can you remember the last time you didn’t care about how many likes that photo got and how many people commented? It was most likely during a time where there wasn’t an app that could show the exact numbers.
This decade can arguably be marked as one where social media and technological advancement reigned supreme.
Technological advancement can mean progress and innovation that saves lives, but it can also mean dangerous unknown consequences. As an example, some people are uncomfortable with home assistants like Amazon Echo with Alexa and Google Home because of their ability to hear conversations. Or they might just be uncomfortable because they watched the Disney Channel Original Movie “Smart House,” and it scarred them for life.
Either way, technology can look nice and shiny but in the years to come, we should teach ourselves how to both live with and without it. For both our health and our sanity.