What's The Real Price Of Technology?


What's The Real Price Of Technology? | Social Media TodayI’ll never forget it.

The story that my friend told me about her daughter who came to her crying, disappointed after she’d found out that Santa Claus is not real. “She Googled it,” my friend said.

It’s inevitable, you might say, they’ll find out eventually. And that’s true, but how about other feelings that we – both children and adults – experience because of our introduction to the Internet a bit early, or because of our addiction to it? Anxiety, anger, depression…

We all, men, women, and children, spend huge amounts of time online every day. And if that’s not enough, according to a 2014 study by HR firm Randstad US, 42% of adults admit to checking their work emails while on holiday – a time that they should be spending disconnecting and relaxing.

Why is it so hard to switch off? Is it because it’s addictive? Is it because we don’t want to miss out on anything? Is it because we use social networks as a place to stroke our own egos?

Whatever the reason, there are repercussions to be aware of. Smartphone and computer use can cause a number of psychological issues:

There’s also the risk of a range of physical health issues such as:

Not to mention the sheer amount of time that could be spent doing something more productive or enjoyable. And the possible future regret and embarrassment of having shared those unflattering photos of yourself while drunk on holiday when, a few years later, you’re applying for jobs.

On our honeymoons and vacations, in an attempt to usurp the random posts of unflattering wedding shots or bragging about our trip to the beach, we spend hours of our precious time away from our spouses and children, choosing and posting our preferred photos into an online album.

There is a fashionable trend on the rise – to go “offline” altogether. Disconnect. Spend time with nature or in absolute quiet, thinking, creating, exercising.

Why is that?

Because we want our lives back. Because relationships need effort and time to make them work. Any relationship. Without exception. Those brought up on social networking can too easily become accustomed to the “disposable” attitudes of online dating and the modern consumer world, with potentially horrific implications for the future of families and partnerships, with terrible implications for the long-term health of our society. Implications to:

  • Creativity and imagination
  • Productivity
  • Innovation
  • Relationships
  • Mental and physical health of both adults and kids.

We need to take charge. We need to be present when our families are talking to us. We need to take time to go outside and explore with our children. We need to disconnect so that we could allow for our thoughts to flow freely and creatively, and so that we could come back to work with the renewed vigor and passion rather than indifference.

Let’s not allow our work consume us. To do that, we need to become more productive during our work hours, minimize the distractions. There are apps that can help us do just that, such as Anti-Social.

Let’s keep our children safe. Technology can be a source of great learning. But organizations like SafeSurf® andOnGuardOnline provide tools and information to help parents in their quest for their kids’ safety. But we ourselves need to be mindful about what information we post about our kids.

The FBI has a worrying list of the types of cyber-attacks on users of social networking sites, plus some helpful tips on how to not become a victim.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I am a technology addict. I am a social media marketer, it kinda’ comes with territory. I am also a workaholic, because I love what I do. It’s a consistent struggle to find the right balance. But over the past 5 years, while juggling projects, networks, friends and communities, I noticed that I’d developed a slight ADD. I’d gained weight. My sleep patterns were off. I’d somewhat neglected my daughter.

So I started to make changes, such as:

  • Family dinner together every night with our child (even if one of us is traveling)
  • No tech or toys at the dinner table (if the phone rings during dinner, we don’t pick it up)
  • No work between the hours of 6-8pm when my daughter is back from school and before her bed time
  • Giving my family an undivided attention during our family time
  • On the weekends spend time outside without technology (yes, without even a cell phone)
  • Play more board games
  • No technology in your bedroom (no cell, laptop, TV, nothing), it vastly improves sleep patterns

And that’s just basics. I’m still working on the right amount of time I spend with and without technology. And today I invite all of you to take the pledge to be mindful. To go screenless every now and then. To reclaim your lives. To keep us all sane and our relationships thriving.

Because it’s worth it

Because, when it’s all said and done, none of us will ever say on our deathbeds: “I wish I spent more time with my beloved technology.”

This post originally appeared on Ekaterina Walter’s blog

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When Technology Fails to Fade into the Background


My family physician’s practice has been part of a bigger healthcare network for a couple of years. The promise was — let us take care of the administrative work. But it was a half promise. Because the other part of it is not so there is more time to spend with patients.

The system is still buggy and takes an enormous amount of time and cognitive load for the doctors to use — doctors who have a grounding in coding. Why isn’t the front end providing a better customer experience? Maybe the IT group doesn’t see doctors as customers. Maybe there was no update of a legacy system.

Brochures scattered around the office say “we’re state-of-the-art,” the reality is even as patients we care more about security and simplicity than sophistication. When a doctor has to shave time off talking with patients, we all lose — they are the keepers of the experience, best suited to understand context, constantly learning from being with people, seeing what is going on with someone.

This is all too common, still. Information architecture, user experience, design — these are not just abstractions to describe professions, they are first and foremost tools. Just like conversation, we should use them to create better experiences. For example, design can be an agent of change in complex systems, when it is in service to people.

We get so wrapped up in the technology, that we pay little attention to who needs to use it and in which contexts. Forget personalization, “give me a system that works,” says my physician, “that takes into account what a doctor does.” His strategy? Spend as much time as possible seeing patients.

He is not alone. 

Why is healthcare tech so bad? Part of the reason rests with unanticipated consequences of changing the way we do things:

The unanticipated consequences of health information technology are of particular interest today. In the past five years about $ 30 billion of federal incentive payments have succeeded in rapidly raising the adoption rate of electronic health records. This computerization of health care has been like a car whose spinning tires have finally gained purchase. We were so accustomed to staying still that we were utterly unprepared for that first lurch forward.

Whopping errors and maddening changes in work flow have even led some physicians to argue that we should exhume our three-ring binders and return to a world of pen and paper.

This argument is utterly unpersuasive. Health care, our most information-intensive industry, is plagued by demonstrably spotty quality, millions of errors and backbreaking costs. We will never make fundamental improvements in our system without the thoughtful use of technology.

But this is not just about code, it’s also about “who” — who is doing the coding, do they understand a physician’s workflow beyond the graph on a PowerPoint deck? And it is also about “what” — costs and efficiency are a concern, but it costs twice as much to do a shoddy work of it. If we go with the metaphor that “time is money,” then wasting the minds of trained physicians and that of patients (also professionals with jobs) on administrivia completely misses the mark. Technology was supposed to make things easier.

Getting back to “who” — who builds those systems? Do they represent the users? Anil Dash says:

When Facebook decided to accommodate people regardless of what their gender expression is, they were making a statement about their values and who their service was for. A few million people around the world were suddenly a little bit more welcome into Facebook.

Which raises the question, well, whose values? Whose values are shaping these apps that we’re spending three years of our lives or 10 years of our lives tapping on it? More simply, who makes your apps?

This sounds like a simple question. And it’s really, really not. It should be kind of straightforward.


Who makes your apps? This shouldn’t actually be a mystery. And we know almost nothing about who’s making these apps. Actually, that’s not true. We know who it’s not. We know who actually is getting funded and being supported in creating these apps. We know that women are roughly about 50% of the population and roughly about 5% of who gets venture funding from the tech industry. We know that African Americans in the US are about 12% to 13% of the population and about 1% of who gets venture funding. And those statistics are born out in the apps that we use and who the creators are. If you go and look, if you’re able to find it, we know a little bit about who’s not there. And it’s not most of us.

We’ve all read the headlines about the Anthem breach, how about Carefirst Blue Cross hitting 1.1 million customers, Premera Blue Cross, and if still curious we can track a day in the life of a stolen health record.

So it’s not just who is building the apps and portals and back end systems and if they represent and understand those these technologies should serve, but also what are their credentials? Because there is accountability that comes with the creation of a new kind of infrastructure — it may not be as physical as a bridge or a road, but it is used by people and it can harm people. Stories of identity theft, loss of privacy, and more dire consequences are one search query away.

Designing and building infrastructure in the public interest has a long tradition and as we migrate more of our transactions and services online, this infrastructure should also be built in the public interest. The Atlantic says:

The traditional disciplines of engineering—civil, mechanical, aerospace, chemical, electrical, environmental—are civic professions as much as technical ones. Engineers orchestrate the erection of bridges and buildings; they design vehicles and heavy machinery; they invent and realize the energy systems that drive this equipment; and they contrive methods for connecting all of these systems together.

It’s no accident that the most truly engineered of software-engineering projects extend well beyond the computer. Autonomous-vehicle design offers the most obvious contemporary example. When Google designs self-driving cars, it musters its own computational systems, like mapping and navigation. But it also integrates those into a world much larger than browsers and smartphones and data centers. Autonomous vehicles share the roads with human-driven cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Those roads are managed, maintained, and regulated. Self-driving cars also interface with federal motor-vehicle standards and regulations, along with all the other material demands and foibles of a machine made of metal and plastic and rubber rather than bits. Engineering addresses complex, large-scale systems.


Perhaps software calamities like data breaches and dieselgate will raise the hackles of the public, such that the standards for software development will be revealed and, in time, reformed.

Changing the world starts with changing our approaches, to upgrade them with the times, and with the responsibilities associated with what we build.


[Leonardo da Vinci]

Conversation Agent – Valeria Maltoni