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17 Disadvantages of Digital Technology

Paul's passion for technology and digital media goes back over 30 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in the U.S., in Florida.

Digital technology has transformed modern life with gadgets such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones now commonly owned. As well as bringing benefits, digital technology has also bought many downsides.

Digital technology has transformed modern life with gadgets such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones now commonly owned. As well as bringing benefits, digital technology has also bought many downsides.

Digital technology has revolutionized almost every aspect of people's lives in recent decades. Office work, shopping, music, movies, television, photography, travel, transport, and long distance communications are just some areas that have been transformed. In fact it's fair to say that it's become increasingly rare to find any electronic devices or large machinery that doesn't incorporate digital technology in some way.

Digital technology often means that devices have generally become much smaller, lighter, faster, and more versatile than they used to be. It also means that huge amounts of information can be stored locally or remotely and moved from place to place almost instantaneously. Even the term "information" has expanded to include photos, audio, video, and other media, rather than just letters and numbers. The information can be much more easily manipulated too; photos, music, and movies can be edited, for instance.

However, there are downsides to digital technology too. Seventeen of the negatives are listed below.

17 Digital Technology Disadvantages

  1. Data Security
  2. Crime and Terrorism
  3. Complexity
  4. Privacy Concerns
  5. Social Disconnect
  6. Work Overload
  7. Digital Media Manipulation
  8. Job Insecurity
  9. Plagiarism and Copyright
  10. Anonymity and Fake Personas
  11. Over-reliance on Gadgets
  12. Addiction
  13. Second-hand Living
  14. Organization and Storage
  15. Depersonalized Warfare
  16. Longevity
  17. Social Depersonalization

I will explain each downside of digital technology in more detail below.

1. Data Security

Digital technology means that vast amounts of data can be collected and stored. This can be private information concerning individuals or organizations. It can be very difficult to keep this data safe. Just a single breach can mean vast amounts of private information going into the hands of criminals, terrorists, business rivals, foreign adversaries, or other malign entities.

2. Crime and Terrorism

The internet is fertile territory for malevolent forces to operate, thanks to its international nature, vast scale, and the relative anonymity that users can enjoy. Examples of this include: terrorists using social media to promote themselves and encourage others; drug dealers using the dark web to trade; pedophiles using chat rooms and other places to groom potential victims, exchange photos, videos and other information; and authoritarian regimes attempting to sway or distort elections in democratic countries.

We have become a people unable to comprehend the technology we invent.

— Association Of American Colleges, Report, Integrity in the College Curriculum (Feb 1985).

3. Complexity

We no longer understand the workings of the devices and machines that we interact with on a daily basis. Fixing a modern car now means interacting with a computer, it is no longer just mechanical. Using a phone can involve tackling all sorts of complicated settings. Minor glitches in the operations of a laptop can cost both time and expense.

4. Privacy Concerns

It's become much harder to have personal privacy in the digital world and that's on top of the dangers of your personal data being stolen or sold. For instance, everybody has the ability to take photos and video footage on their mobile phone, then post it online. Employers can search for people online and maybe find unflattering photographs, or see them expressing controversial opinions in social media or blogs. Digital cameras watch and record our movements in public places. Minor indiscretions can now haunt an individual for life when they're posted on the internet. Controlling your personal information is very difficult and sometimes impossible.

5. Social Disconnect

There is an increasing tendency for people to socialize and communicate via digital devices rather than through real life contact. This can easily lead to a sense of disconnect and isolation. Human beings have evolved over thousands of years to have real contact, taking that away affects them in all sorts of negative ways that we only just beginning to understand. Studies have suggested that the lack of real life contact is causing depression and other forms of mental illness in many people.

There are a number of psychological studies suggesting that the digital world is causing an increased risk of mental illness. Examples include reliance on social media for contact,  online bullying, and work stress through information overload.

There are a number of psychological studies suggesting that the digital world is causing an increased risk of mental illness. Examples include reliance on social media for contact, online bullying, and work stress through information overload.

6. Work Overload

Many modern workers spend their days trying to keep up with the hundreds of emails that they are sent each week, all of which require reading and some of which require replies or action. Texts from colleagues in the evenings or on the weekend can mean that people never fully escape work. Organizing the vast amount of digital data acquired in some jobs, such as the minutes of meetings, training videos, photographs, reports, and instructions can also be a huge headache.

7. Digital Media Manipulation

Digital media such as photographs, audio, and video are easy to edit, making the manipulation of media widespread. It's not always easy to tell what is real and what is fake anymore. Photographs can be altered using editing tools such as Photoshop. Digital audio and video can be doctored. The issues will only intensify as the technology improves.

8. Job Insecurity

It used to be that you had to be physically present at a workplace to do a job, but now many work tasks are performed remotely via the internet. That means a Third World worker in a low wage economy can undercut you and take your job. Increasingly, humans aren't needed at all for many tasks, as computers gradually replace them. Driving and delivery jobs, for instance, will disappear soon as vehicles become automated.

Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.

— Daniel J. Boorstin, speaking on the computerization of libraries.

9. Plagiarism and Copyright

Digital media is remarkably easy to copy and reproduce. Copyright laws are increasingly hard to enforce, as the music and movie industries have discovered to their cost. School kids can copy and paste their homework projects without really learning anything. A culture of "sharing" on social media means that often the original creator of a piece of media is forgotten, as the piece is adapted and claimed by others.

10. Anonymity and Fake Personas

Digital technology provides wide scope for users to hide their identities. Studies show that people are much more likely to behave anti-socially if they don't think that there will be any consequences. Bullying, trolling, stalking, threatening, and insulting behavior have all increased dramatically with the rise of the internet. People assume fake personas for the purposes of scamming and defrauding. Pedophiles use fake personas to gain access and befriend children.

11. Over-reliance on Gadgets

Reliance upon mobile phones, computers, and other digital gadgets has become common. Many people have all their contact information, photographs, texts, and other personal information on their phones. If they lose them, or the gadget breaks or runs out of power, then they are in trouble. Basic living skills, like finding one's way around the streets of a town, have been replaced by taking directions from a GPS system.

Computer gaming addiction can cause multiple problems for users caught up in it. Consequences include negative effects on social life, finances, academic achievement, sleep patterns, as well as emotional and health problems.

Computer gaming addiction can cause multiple problems for users caught up in it. Consequences include negative effects on social life, finances, academic achievement, sleep patterns, as well as emotional and health problems.

12. Addiction

Social media, computer games, messaging, and dating websites can all be addictive. Games want you to play so that you will buy the next version. Websites want you to interact so that they can bring in advertising money. Users end up wasting vast amounts of time and hemorrhaging money for low return.

13. Second-hand Living

Many people no longer experience real life events directly. Music concerts or live shows are videoed on mobile phones, events are photographed, audio is recorded. Media is uploaded onto social sites. Life becomes something that is experienced through the prism of digital media rather than at first hand.

Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.

— Max Frisch, Homo Faber (1957)

14. Organization and Storage

Digital media can be very difficult to organize. Photos and music, for instance, can be located on numerous devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and portable hard drives. Individual items can be hard to find, easy to accidentally delete or lose, and the device they are stored on can be lost, stolen, or suffer catastrophic malfunction. Digital media can be difficult to store and maintain long term. File formats change over time. In some instances traditional media can last longer than their digital equivalent.

15. Depersonalized Warfare

Digital technology means that weapons can be deployed anywhere in the world without any actual human military presence. Drones turn warfare into a computer game. Intercontinental missiles follow streets and landmarks in foreign countries remotely. Satellites monitor enemy forces through photographs and video taken from space.

16. Longevity

Digital gadgets typically have a short lifespan and become archaic relatively quickly. As the technology advances at a pace, devices and machines quickly become unusable because they are now seen as too slow, or incompatible with other devices, or they have simply been superseded by newer, better versions. This creates tremendous waste and inefficiency, as older digital devices are discarded when no longer useful. It can also become very expensive for users when you have to upgrade every few years to a new device.

Much of life's tasks can now take place without leaving the house. The downside to this is that society is becoming increasing depersonalized.

Much of life's tasks can now take place without leaving the house. The downside to this is that society is becoming increasing depersonalized.

17. Social Alienation

Society continues to become more and more impersonal as digitized machines replace humans. People shop online, do their banking online, pay bills online, and increasingly work online. Transport is also set to become automated, which will ultimately result in taxis and delivery vehicles becoming driver free. Loneliness and a lack of human contact with a flesh and blood person are becoming increasingly common.

Sources

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the meaning of "depersonalized"?

Answer: To depersonalize something is to treat it in an impersonal way, or to remove the human element.

© 2018 Paul Goodman

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