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The Rise of Digital Media: Beneficial or Harmful?

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    In her book, ‘How Are Digital Devices Impacting Society’, Melissa Abramovitz wrote “on September 20, 2013, twenty-one-year-old Kimberly Davis of Port Fairy, Australia, slammed into a bicyclist while texting and driving. She stopped 300 feet (91m) away from the injured man and called emergency responders. However, she refused to help the victim who seriously injured his back and had extensive cuts and bruises. The man required surgery and was hospitalized for three months.” (p.6). This incident is one of many that has occurred because of the use of digital media. As the use of digital media has increased, it has brought with it more harm than benefits to people and to the society at large.

    According to freedictionary.com, digital media may refer to the electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, tapes, disks, flash drives) that store the data or the communication methods that transmit the data, including email, text and instant messaging, text chat and video calling. Digital media are replacing print media and some print media work with digital media in various ways to pass information to people. The introduction and availability of internet brought about the use of digital media. (Digital media, 2015, para 3). Presently there are so many forms and sources of digital media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, FaceTime, WhatsApp, to mention but a few. These media have brought a lot of problems to people like reducing privacy, face to face communication, and relationships between humans, causing a lot of distractions and cyberbullying to mention but a few of the consequences.

    Digital media is a source of news broadcasting, and with the introduction of digital media, “digital media sources can now post news at any time, which means a person can get the most up to date news as it is happening- as long as a person has the technology to access digital media.” (Digital media, 2015, para 5). Unfortunately, that is not all digital media is used for nowadays. Before digital media, people controlled what they wanted others to know; no one had information about them posted on digital media. Now, with the introduction of digital media, anyone can go online and post pictures and stories about someone else, even if these stories are not true. There is little or no privacy for people these days, and one must be careful with what one chooses to do with one’s smartphone. The advertisements for smartphones and tablets are usually very enticing and compelling, making consumers want to get one, but nothing is said about how easy it is for these phones and devices to be hacked. There have been cases of people’s social media accounts being hacked and these hackers use the hacked accounts to swindle friends and families of innocent victims. Besides hackers, the government also uses digital media to monitor people’s activity on their digital devices. During the 2016 presidential election, what was supposed to be a private and protected email account of Hilary Clinton was hacked and many of her private correspondence was made public.

    Digital media and social media has brought about the distribution and spread of fake news and wrong information. With digital media, one must be careful with the information that is made available online. Some information online is posted to spite people or promote hate. Digital media has made it easy for a person to be placed in a location he or she has never visited through the use of ‘photoshopping’. During the 2016 election campaign, there were pictures of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on different social media platforms. Videos of them playing basketball together were seen online, and at some point, there was also a picture of Hillary Clinton sitting on the lap of Donald Trump. None of the events represented by the video or pictures ever occurred but with the help of digital media and the latest technologies, it was made was made to look as if it had.

    With the increase in the use of social media, there have been reported cases of cyberbullying. “Research shows that cyberbullying mostly results from individuals losing their reluctance to display their true personality in the online world. Indeed, hiding behind digital communications tends to make people forget that other with whom they are interacting are real people and that online behavior can have real-life consequences.” (Abramovitz, 2015). We see on the news that people are being bullied on social media; even the celebrities are not left out. I have also had friends who have complained to me about being victims of cyberbullying. “Cyberbullying has led many people to commit suicide.” (Abramovitz, 2015). There would not be cyberbullying if it were not for the introduction of digital media and all that it entails.

    Increased use of digital media has caused addictions that have led to distractions in so many ways and instances. For example, Snapchat rewards friends who snapchat with each other every day, thus encouraging, addictive behavior which can be very unhealthy for some people. Increased use of digital devices has caused so many fatal accidents, which has led to the loss of lives and properties. In an article written by Andrew Currin and published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it was stated that distracted driving claimed the lives of 3450 people in 2016 alone. “In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers.” (Currin, 2018). Despite the laws that prohibit the use of mobile devices while driving, some people still find it hard to not use their devices while driving. Some people are so addicted to their devices that they cannot leave their homes without them. “Many people express frustration if they are unable to use their phones” (Abramovitz, 2015). Some students find it difficult to concentrate in class because of their addiction to their devices and to social media. The birth of digital media has made it easy for students to be distracted in class and pay less attention to their instructors. Sometimes in classes, students pay more attention to the games on their phone or updates on social media instead of learning from instructors.

    The internet and digital devices are making some students shallow and lazy. Some students do not take their studies seriously anymore, as they should be doing; instead, they spend most of their time on social media. Some even feel that since the answers to most of their homework and assignments can be easily found on the internet, they have no business studying. All they have to do is search for the answers online, submit the assignment, and go back to playing with their devices.

    Digital media was seemingly introduced to help bring people together but ironically, it has broken and destroyed many relationships. There are people who now prefer to communicate via social media and this has increased loneliness in the life of some. David Brooks in his article ‘How evil is tech?’ wrote, “Since the spread of the smartphones, teens are much less likely to hang out with friends, they are less likely to date, they are less likely to work.” (para 4). He went further to describe how eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours on social media are more likely to be unhappy than those who do not. Some families are okay with staying apart for a long time just because they get to speak on the phone or Skype from time to time.

    The rise in digital media is not entirely a horrible thing; it has its own benefits. Digital media with advanced technology make communication, information gathering, shopping, entertainment, and many other aspects of everyday life easier and faster. People in support of the digital media may come up with so many different ways to show that a rise in digital media has been helpful to society, or that digital media has brought beneficial services to people. After all, I am able to type and edit this assignment through the help of a digital media. In some aspects, one might be forced to admit that the rise of digital media is a sort of labor-saving development. In addition, if we think about natural disasters like hurricane, tornados, and earthquakes, for a minute, we realize digital media is used to save lives through circulation of warnings about these events before they occur. Although these benefits serve a purpose and even save lives, the negative psychological effects of digital media remain a threat and can also be destructive to people and society. “Texting and other technologies give you more control over social interactions but also lead to thinner interactions and less real engagement with the real world.” (Brooks, 2017, para 3)

    The future of digital media is uncertain and hard to predict. There is no telling where digital media will take us in ten to twenty years. However, if the current trend towards fake news, distractions, cyberbullying, lack of privacy, and face to face communication and relationship between human continues, the digital media will be even more harmful than beneficial to people and society, thus placing everyone in a more dangerous and harmful position than the current one.

    References

    1. Abramovitz, M. (2015). How are digital devices impacting society? San Diego, CA: ReferencePoint Press.
    2. Brooks, D. (2017, 21 Nov). How evil is tech? New York Times Retrieved from https://sks-sirs-com.ccbcmd.idm.oclc.org
    3. Currin, A. (2018, October 30). U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
    4. Digital media. (n.d.) Computer Desktop Encyclopedia. (1981-2015). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Digital+media
    5. Digital Media. (2015). In Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ccbcmd.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/PC3010999190/OVIC?u=balt47855&sid=OVIC&xid=b9a8f145

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