Law in Contemporary Society

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

-- By LeoFarbman - 05 Mar 2015

Technological Impact on Social Psychology

The Internet, paired alongside the smart phone, has expanded the spread of information in truly amazing ways; the world is at our fingertips. However, America's obsessive use these technologies has been suffocating our awareness, our culture, and our development.

a) The Dissociation Problem

As I sit here writing this essay, outwardly frustrated by these mind-consuming devices, I will likely get distracted and check my phone countless times; I just can’t resist. I’m constantly in two or three places at the same time and it almost feels out of my control. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I don’t think that’s the case. We have become a generation obsessed with high score games, pushed notifications, emojis, and selfies; unable to ignore the constant flood of information and actually focus on what is in front of us. Our thoughts and emotions are being suppressed without time and space to grow outside of our devises and aliases.

Our culture has always been relative in nature; people concerned with those around them to help define and quantify their own existence. Unfortunately, this common and debilitating trait has been greatly intensified by the digital revolution. People have become more and more alienated by this incessant visibility. Mental escape is harder than ever. The genius, reclusive-type now has a much harder time finding comfort in isolation to do his work. Taking the individual path has become even harder due to the walls of this peer pressure surrounding us at all times. Everything is tracked and judged in relation to what our friends are doing. Ideally, yes, this all can all be avoided with some effort, but not everyone has that courage.

Furthermore, we now tailor ourselves to depict how we want the world to see us (See: Facebook, Linked-In,, etc.). Lawyerland's dissociation problem, which we have discussed in class, is now an accepted practice throughout our society and it begins at a very young age. One can digitally presents themselves as they like, but simultaneously lead a totally different life. To me, this only expands on the dissociate problem for the next crop of young lawyers.

b) When Table Manners are at Stake

Picture this: You’re at a friend’s house warming party. The apartment is only half-full, but you know a few people and have met a handful more. The party is currently less-than-exciting and the music is less-than-great, but it is still good to be out around people. Unfortunately, the party isn’t going so well; everyone feels the dullness of the slow party. One after another people start to check their phones to avoid the awkwardness, to make other plans, to talk with someone else. This intuitive reaction to the slow party aggregates to our society at large and brings light to a problematic social norm. Just the other week, I was at dinner and the table next to us had Mom on her iPhone, Dad on his Sony camera, and their two young boys watching cartoons on their iPad. When table manners are at stake, we know there is a societal problem. How will those kids behave in society when they are adults?

As Joshua Horowitz mentioned in class, presence is half the battle. Or better yet, “90% of life is just showing up”. What does it mean to show up in 2015? Mentally disengaged presence doesn’t seem to fit the bill. Being taken out of the moment, whether it is a meeting or a song, has become accepted practice in our culture. Interruptions – or should I say notifications – are no longer considered disruptions. It is no longer enough to just be somewhere, to feel the moment. Whenever we want to check out, we can fill the lull with a phone, not with human interaction or the engagement with the world. This social behavior is curbing our cultural growth and its development.

Education & Beyond

Modern technologies have changed the way we think and interact, but not much is being done to approach this societal problem. The technology is here to stay and it is long overdue for changes in education. 70% of parents agree.

Currently, Internet and Social Media education in schools of all levels is low to nonexistent. There is no nationally recognized standard or training system to teach kids how to understand the Internet. There are also no nationally sponsored education conferences. Only a few high schools in the country have implemented a semester-long course on Internet use (and even in that area the head of the Teachers Union is trying to get it removed). Those classes are based around the Common Sense Education Curriculum, which focuses on potential dangers from youth Internet usage, not on how to help understand what it means to be an active Internet user and how to behave responsibly with this technology always on your hip. This issue is far bigger than just cyber bullying and loss of privacy.

I believe education needs to be implemented in a similar fashion to that of Sexual Education after the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s. Sex-Ed rightfully focuses on safe sex and how to use contraception, but also importantly on broader questions like what it means to be sexually active and when is it appropriate to start having sex. Similarly, a practical yet theoretical approach to the use of technology must be implemented.

Furthermore, the use and understanding of technology is quite disparately spread across the country and it is important we make it an even playing field across the board. Congress should take up this issue and it should be taught equally throughout the country, similar to the Mathematics Common Core, which was just implemented. This issue is too important to be left up to the states to individually mandate over a long period of time.

The advances are not stopping; it's time we take these issues seriously.

From my point of view the essay's most important problem is that it doesn't know there's an off-switch.

I live my life in the Net. I have been using email for forty years. I know as much about how to build, program, use and understand the social implications of computing as anyone else I know, and I know the people in this world.

But I don't use an Internet-connected phone in my hand. I'm surrounded by computers that I run, and they do everything for me, but they do not demand my attention in return.

You're not talking about the consequences of technology. You are talking about the consequences of using it badly, as a result of habit-formation that was convenient for the sellers of mobile bandwidth and surveilling-you "services," but which as you see are not good for the cognitive development of human beings.

If you learn to use technology more wisely, you will grow wiser and better connected, instead of less wise and more isolated. In the meantime, Sherry Turkle's 2011 book Alone Together will interest you.

Comments are still available in the "History" of this page. But the next draft will be clean, overwriting my comments here as well, leaving coherent history in the wiki as well.


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r11 - 29 Jun 2015 - 20:44:53 - MarkDrake
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