When the question is whether people are too dependent on computers, there are no simple answers if only because the society has shifted in ways making the computer virtually necessary. The Internet permits access to limitless services, from banking to social media, so an exponential quality is created. The more people turn to it, the more it becomes a perceived need in users. The advantages, of course, are many. Any kind of information may be uncovered, personal and business communication exists on levels never before possible, and all ambitions of users regarding connections are completely enabled. In plain terms, it is far easier to browse a website and shop, rather than go to a literal store. Moreover, untold numbers of users depend on the Internet for their news and entertainment. It is in fact extremely difficult today to function without access to the Internet; many businesses are increasingly emphasizing online access to the point where no other access is possible.
These realities then make it difficult to determine if dependency levels are too high. The computer is so a fixture in modern life, there is in a sense the need to use it. At the same time, undue dependence may be identified in a variety of ways. Since the 1990s, there has been a great deal of focus on Internet addiction, as it may be held that this problem is getting far worse. It is difficult, for example, to walk down any city street today and not collide with someone so intent on their device, they ignore the literal surroundings. It also may be thought that Internet addiction is not drastic and may be overcome easily. The truth is different. Studies support that Internet addiction, in fact, mirrors all addiction behaviors, including withdrawal symptoms (Young, de Abreu, 2010, p. 6). Internet addiction then supports that many people are in fact too dependent on their devices. While the computers are, again, valuable tools in multiple ways, it seems that they also pose real threats to users who rely on them beyond practical, or even social, reasons. This is seen in any public space as users spend hours only playing games or engaging in unimportant texts.
Complicating dependency is the virtually universal usage of the smart phone. This is by no means a problem restricted to young people, although this population, having grown up with the technology, views it as a part of daily existence. Adults as well reveal signs of extreme dependency. For example, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. sleep with their phones beside them to be able to text at any time (Perdew, 2014, p. 51). Here, again, utility is not the issue; these are users who have become so accustomed to what the devices enable, they are virtually lost without them. The communication enabled by the computer devices is valuable but, and commonly, this communication takes on a life of its own for the users. It is not necessary contact and is more social, but the urgency attached to this adds to how too many people rely on devices for only the most casual activities.
Another evidence of dependency as too extreme relates to how, the more the person uses the devices, the more vulnerable they are to having their information stolen or breached. This has been a huge problem since the rise of the Internet and it has only become a greater risk. It may be argued that, over time, people have relaxed their guards in terms of cyber attacks and will enter unsecured websites. Then, criminals entering others’ systems develop ingenious ways of doing so. Ransomware is increasingly a threat, as the person’s systems are hacked and data is not returned until the ransom is paid. As with other forms of malware, as well, there is little law enforcement can do because most of the attacks originate in foreign countries (Bettany, Halsey, 2017, p. 6). Such attacks, of course, do not translate to people as overly dependent on computers. At the same time, however, the simple fact that so many are so constantly online provides cyber criminals with increased opportunity.
Lastly, excess dependence may be observed in how social media has become both an addiction for many and a deceptive practice. On Facebook, for example, users gather hundreds or thousands of “friends” whom they do not know. Moreover, untold numbers of users spend hours a day pursuing these contacts online, and often create false senses of reality regarding genuine contact. Logging into the social media site becomes a reflex, and not by any means a necessarily good experience. It has in fact been identified that, the more social media is used, the less happy users tend to be (Walton, 2017). More disturbing is that it is likely many excessive users in these venues are unaware of this effect. They believe they are enjoying the activity even as it may generate depression, conflict, and a variety of other issues. Nonetheless, numbers of subscribers grow daily, and the primary social media sites literally have billions of followers.
When all the above factors are considered, then, it may be held that people are too dependent on computers. Many are not and only employ them for basic needs. As noted, however, it is virtually impossible to enter into any public space and not see all within in fixated on their phones, texting, playing games, or simply engaging in activity only because the activity is there. The computer is remarkable in many ways and is an important instrument. Nonetheless, and unfortunately, it is also an addictive one.
- Bettany, A., & Halsey, M. (2017). Windows Virus and Malware Troubleshooting. New York,
- Perdew, L. (2014). Internet Addiction. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO.
- Walton, A. G. (2017). 6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health. Forbes.
- Young, K. S., & de Abreu, C. N. (2010). Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.