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Officer Norway’s Corner – The blessings, curses of technology

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

While I have been living and working here in the United States since 1996, I still enjoy keeping in touch with friends and family back in Norway and elsewhere. I remember when I moved here, the internet was in its infancy, a dial-up connection was the norm, and there was nothing called “streaming” movies and TV shows using a computer and a dial-up modem. I still was longing for news from Norway, so I had friends who would record various programs and shows on VHS tapes and mail them to me.

Tech-wise back then compared to today we were in the stone ages. In regards to VHS players, Europe had one system and the U.S. and Canada another, so I had to invest in a VHS player that could play both. I paid a small fortune for it back then, and because of that, I still have the darn thing, the size of an all-in-one printer and copier. I still remember the first computer we purchased back in 1997. It was a 235Mhz Pentium made by Gateway 2000, and I think they went out of business a few years back. It was big and bulky and cost as much as a decent used car.

The speed of which technology has been moving, especially the last 10 years or so, has been almost mind-blowing. It’s not that many years ago, those so-called smartphones became commonplace. Everything seems like it is connected to the world wide web nowadays. Indeed, there are some real-life benefits to that, I, for instance, use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family in Norway. We can use our phones as navigation devices, take pictures, and more. Sometimes I think that phones are used less for actual phone calls and more for texts and other social media platforms.

Sometimes, I find myself thinking where we will be, say 15 or 20 years from now? Will we even have schools as we know them today? Already we have what we call “virtual students” who do most if not all of their work from home. We have for years now been able to obtain various degrees through online colleges and universities; I myself have taken advantage of that some years ago. It’s both fascinating and a little scary how fast we as a society have been willing to accept the onslaught of technology and with that in return, giving up a considerable portion of our privacy. How many times have we received a message on our phones asking us to recommend a business we have driven or walked by, but not walked into or adds that all of a sudden is popping up on our Facebook wall with items we looked on at a different site?

I think it’s fair to say that we all, to a certain degree, get addicted to these smartphones, the various apps, information at our fingertips, etc. If I, as an adult, sometimes find myself mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, what about kids, who often will start using these devices in elementary school if not before? A 2017 study in the Clinical Psychological Science journal found that for kids in grades 8 through 12, increased time on new media (to include social media and smartphones) led to an increased rate of depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates.

That’s part of the negative side to all these new technologies that we are more and more surrounded by and dare I say, addicted to. It’s hard to tell what the outcome will be? Will we all learn to adjust to this new reality, where the negative aspects of them will shrink, or will we have a growing segment of the population saying “enough is enough” and opt-out as much as they can? I guess only time will know.

Until next time, be safe, have fun, and let’s try to put our smartphones down for a while every day.