Technology Is Not an End

Just a few years ago, you would use a computer to create a document, look up information, email a friend, etc. It was a tool. Today, computers, tablets, (smart)phones and the like have become distractions: they've become ends.

We're having more and more trouble focusing and staying on task for extended periods of time: the average attention span of teenagers in 2000 was of 12 seconds. In 2013, it had dropped to 8 seconds. Four less seconds in only 13 years. Give it 13 more years and we're down to a 4-second attention span. (!)

I too experience this: oftentimes, when I want/have to a long essay, I read a few sentences and already my mind wanders to completely unrelated subjects. Even when I write on this blog, I (too) frequently stop writing and do something else that has absolutely no relation with the act of writing itself.

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When we should be working, we mess around Facebook and Reddit instead. When we should chat in person with "friends", we text other "friends" instead. When we should listen to the professor in class, we play Candy Crush instead. When we should do homework at home, we watch YouTube videos instead (I'm guilty of this one).

Besides, what's interesting is when you get hordes of students that whine about that exam they just failed: they suddenly find interest in talking to the teacher (not with the teacher, mind you). It's one of those rare moments where they look up from their phones and use words to express anger as to why it's the prof's fault.

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It's 2014 and we're allowing technology to become an end. You may say times change. I say, despite my young age and lack of life experience, that we're not going in the right direction. I know people who are failing classes and repeating grades because they can't stop being on their phones. They don't even use the damn things to communicate, which is their sole and original purpose: they use them for the sake of having them in their hands.

How many people do you see on a daily basis staring at their devices, mindlessly scrolling down a list of status updates and tweets, each more narcissistic and useless than the one before? How often do you see a mother/father on their phone instead of playing with their young child?

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The principle is not restricted to phones, however: one may very well use their computer as an end (I am guilty of doing this one too). While I could read a book or play music, I decide to tinker around the computer for no apparent reason instead.

Why so? Why use the computer if I'm not using its features to reach a goal (sending an email, completing a project, researching for a paper)? It's as if I were to buy a guitar to hold it in my hands, tune the strings, clean the wooden body, and put it on the stand 15 minutes later. Then, maybe, play it only once or twice a month.

Or the same as if I were to buy a car, a license plate, pay for insurance and a driving license, fill the car with gas, clean it once a week... and keep it parked in the driveway 23 hours a day.

Oh... wait. That's what actually happens with cars.

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Let's not use technology as an end.
Let's keep it to being a means that allows us to achieve a goal.
This way, we can focus on the important things.


Hi, I'm Max. I'm a developer intern at Shopify in Montreal, Canada.

You can find me on Twitter, GitHub, Mastodon, and Keybase.