Hate your phone? Distrust the platforms you are on to be social? Dubious of the search results you get when you look for things online? You’re not alone. A new phenomenon has been occurring in even the more stalwart techies: Techlash. And it’s forging a new dynamic between consumers and the products they use—only, in the opposite direction. While inner-city youth and underprivileged communities are scrambling to get a screen for daily use, many affluent families are beginning to refuse screen time for their children altogether. And this dichotomy could further divide the haves from the have nots.
Technically, Techlash as used in the common vernacular is the popular reaction to Silicon Valley, and the tech giants who reside there, with regard to things like fake news, data breaches, and general bad business practices. But when we look at the specific things consumers are reacting to, it’s the platforms themselves, so I take it to mean lashing out at technology as a whole, not just at the manufacturers.
This may be splitting hairs, but a recent article confirmed my suspicion that this word is apt for a growing unrest over the hold these devices have on our lives. And knowing that blue-light screens are ruining our eyes, social media is messing with our hierarchy of needs, and messaging is diminishing our ability to connect with people IRL, why not apply “Techlash” to the reaction conscientious users have?
So, is technology bad?
I write a tech blog, and yet, I’m a technophobe. Meaning, I use these devices for my job and for communication, but I am extremely dubious of what it’s doing to me. I know that technology is ambivalent, but I also know the users of technology are not. We must forge a balance of our own or the lure of the screen will suck us in.
And, as those tech families are finding out, limiting screen-time for their children allows their kids to grow and develop healthy social, intellectual, and cognitive skills. But these are mostly families who’ve been able to afford technology long enough to see its effects. Those who have not might not think twice about dropping their children in front of a screen for 8 hours a day. So this is where the potential to further divide our communities exists.
On this platform, we push to have digital access for LMI (Low-to-Middle Income) communities because of the potential our devices have in moving our country forward. Nearly everything is shifting to the digital space, so now internet access on a large-screen device (i.e. laptops and PCs) is as necessary for modern life as electricity.
However, in pushing this agenda, we also contend that education needs to come along with the access. It isn’t enough to give a person a computer and broadband and then just walk away. Healthy computer habits and clear communication of the risks are imperative to truly solve the digital inequity problem. Otherwise, the result will be deeper lines of inequity because of the technology.
The digital divide is dangerous when it’s forced (as in the case of no access). However, when access is unlimited, a completely different set of problems comes to a head. Things like depression, cyberbullying, and internet addiction can ruin community just as much as lack of access can. The goal is to foster a healthy community, not just to give more people computers.
Technology isn’t static
Between A.I. and machine learning, the apps of the future will be even more powerful at grabbing our attention than the invention of the endless scroll has been. But teaching children that there is a world beyond the retinal display they are comforted—or distracted—by can only reap benefits.
As this next generation of children grows up with technology, we will need education to come alongside the access. Otherwise, the divide we have in this country won’t be digital so much as it’ll be interpersonal.