17 Disadvantages of Digital Technology

Updated on July 2, 2018
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Paul's passion for technology and digital media goes back over thirty years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida, USA.

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. | Source

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. It's become increasingly rare to find an electronic device or large machine that doesn't incorporate digital technology in some way.

Digital technology means that devices can be smaller, lighter, faster, and more versatile. It 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 disadvantages are listed 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, foreign enemies, or other malign entities.

2. Crime and Terrorism

The internet is fertile territory for malevolent forces to operate, thanks to its international nature, large 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 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 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 a laptop can cost 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 is a bad idea. 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. | Source

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 minutes of meetings, training videos, photographs, reports 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.

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 jobs, for instance, will disappear soon as vehicles become self-driven.

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.

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. | Source

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 human military presence. Drones turn war into a computer game. Intercontinental missiles follow streets and landmarks in foreign countries remotely. Satellites photograph and video from space.

16. Longevity

Digital gadgets typically have a short lifespan and become archaic quickly. As the technology advances at a pace, devices and machines quickly become unusable because they are too slow, incompatible, or are simply superseded.

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. | Source

17. Depersonalization

Society continues to become more and more depersonalized 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 result in taxis and delivery vehicles being driver free.

Questions & Answers

  • What is the meaning of "depersonalized"?

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

© 2018 Paul Goodman

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