Harris Interactive-- Fear of technology's impact on our lives is nothing new. Even today, Americans are divided on how technology impacts the way we live our lives. On the one hand, strong majorities believe that technology has improved the overall quality of their lives (71 percent) and encourages people to be more creative (65 percent). But, at the same time, strong majorities also believe technology is creating a lazy society (76 percent), has become too distracting (69 percent) and is corrupting interpersonal communications (68 percent).
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,210 U.S. adults surveyed online between June 12 and 17, 2013 by Harris Interactive.
"Warm fuzzies" for technology show year-over-year declines
Americans' collective assessment of technology's impact on everyday life appears to have suffered a bit over the past year. In comparison to June of 2012, Americans have become more likely to indicate that technology has become too distracting (from 65 percent in 2012 to 69 percent in 2013) and less likely to agree that it has improved the overall quality of their lives (78 - 71 percent), that they use technology as an escape from their busy lives (53 - 47 percent) and that it enhances their social lives (56 - 52 percent).
There also appears to be year-over-year erosion in how Americans feel technology is affecting several aspects of their lives. Though Americans are consistently more likely to report a positive impact than a negative one for all aspects tested, many of these perceived positive effects have declined in comparison to 2012:
- My work productivity (down from 42 percent in 2012 to 34 percent in 2013)
- My work life (41 - 34 percent)
- My safety and security (42 - 36 percent)
- My productivity at home (39 - 34 percent)
- Relationships with my family (43 - 39 percent)
Additionally, the perception that technology has a negative effect on safety and security has grown by a third in the same period, from 15 percent in 2012 to 20 percent in 2013.
Despite all these concerns about technology, clearly Americans still have a hard time unplugging. When faced with a list of technological devices and general life staples and asked how long they could live without each, majorities of Americans indicated that they could make it a week or less without Internet access (68 percent), a computer/laptop (64 percent), television (57 percent) or a mobile phone (56 percent), with roughly one-fourth going so far as to state outright that they simply could not live without them (28, 24, 23 and 26 percent, respectively). Just to add a dash of perspective, fewer than half (43 percent) said they could only make it a week or less (or not at all) without sex, with two in ten (20 percent) saying they could not live without it - period.
Tech savvy doesn't necessarily translate to tech love
These divergent perspectives on technology are not limited to U.S. adults at large; a comparison of Americans by generation reveals an equally complex picture. A recent Harris Poll confirmed what we likely all know-- that younger generations are more likely to own such high tech goodies. However, this should not be taken to mean that these younger Americans are more affectionate towards technology. In fact, Echo Boomers are consistently more likely than their older counterparts to indicate that technology has a negative impact on every tested aspect of their lives. Some examples of this include:
- My productivity at home (33 percent Echo Boomers, 21 percent Gen Xers, 18 percent Baby Boomers, 13 percent Matures).
- My safety and security (25, 19, 17, and 14 percent, respectively).
- Relationships with my family (18, 10, 7, and 5 percent, respectively).
- My work productivity (17, 9, 3 and 4 percent, respectively)
- My happiness (15 percent, 6 percent, 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively).
And yet even with a higher likelihood to see negative effects of technology on their lives, younger Americans nonetheless prove to be less willing to part with their goodies, with Echo Boomers and Gen Xers (33 and 30 percent, respectively) more likely than Baby Boomers (22 percent) or Matures (16 percent) to indicate that they could not live without a mobile phone.