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Does Technology Make Us Lazy and Disconnected? This Harris Poll Might Have Some Answers

Remember when we were kids and we knew every person’s phone number off the top of our heads.  Remember when there were no microwaves in homes or when having a VCR was big deal.  Maybe I’m showing my age but I remember when the first brick cell phones were available and I thought that was big deal.  I remember when we used to have to ask for directions and now the world is literally in our palms.   There are some great benefits to technology that I personally love and take advantage of on a daily basis but it seems as if we have moved away from face-to-face interaction or even picking up a phone to call a friend.  Now we just text, tweet, etc.  Show the question remains, does technology make us lazy and disonnected?

As technology continues to seep into seemingly every aspect of everyday life – and with familiarity so often breeding contempt – it should come as no surprise that it rubs some Americans the wrong way. Many adults remain 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%) and encourages people to be more creative (68%). But at the same time, strong majorities also believe technology is creating a lazy society (73%), has become too distracting (73%), is corrupting interpersonal communications (69%), and is having a negative impact on literacy (59%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,220 adults surveyed online between June 17 and 22, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

unplug

On an encouraging note, a majority of Americans say technology has had a positive effect on their ability to learn new skills (63%). Over four in ten also say technology has a positive effect on:

Their relationships with friends (46%),
Their ability to live life the way they want (45%),
Their happiness (43%), and
Their social life (42%).
A plurality says the same of its effect on their work productivity (36%) and their work life (35%).

While a plurality (36%) believes technology has a positive effect on their productivity at home, it’s worth noting that nearly one quarter (23%) disagree with this sentiment.

Generational gaps
It’s well known that different generations hold differing opinions when looking at any aspect of technology – be it usage, adoption, or general attitudes. Knowing that Millennials are traditionally the most attuned to their tech devices, it comes as no surprise that this group is more likely to say technology has had a positive effect on nearly all aspects tested, including:

Ability to learn new skills (72% vs. 59% Gen Xers, 60% Baby Boomers & 56% Matures),
Relationships with friends (59% vs. 46%, 36% & 34%),
Ability to life the way they want to (53% vs. 43%, 39% & 40%),
Happiness (52% vs. 42%, 37% & 38%),
Social life (57% & 42%, 30% & 29%), and
Relationships with family (46% vs. 36%, 33% & 27%).
However, there is a key exception – their productivity. Millennials are more likely than all other generations to say technology has had a negative effect on their productivity both at home (32% vs. 21% Gen Xers, 20% Baby Boomers & 14% Matures) and at work (14% vs. 8%, 3% & 2%).

While Millennials may be the most likely group to say technology positively affects their relationships and the most likely to say it enhances their social life (67% vs. 53% Gen Xers, 36% Baby Boomers & 40% Matures), their family and friends might feel differently. Millennials also happen to be more likely than any other generation to say their friends/family think they use technology too much (46% vs. 27% Gen Xers, 13% Baby Boomers & 11% Matures).

Gender divides
Men and women offer some differing opinions on how technology affects their lives as well.

Women are more likely than men to hold the negative opinions that technology has become too distracting (76% vs. 70% of men) and that it gets upgraded/updated too quickly (67% vs. 57%).
They’re also more likely to believe it has a negative effect on their productivity at home (30% vs. 17%) and safety and security (18% vs. 13%).
However, women don’t find it all bad. They’re also more likely than men to say they use it as an escape from their busy lives (50% vs. 43%).
Meanwhile, men are more likely than women to see the positive aspects.

A majority of men are more likely to believe technology has a positive impact on several functional aspects of their lives.

This includes their ability to learn new skills (67% vs. 60% of women) and to live life the way they want (50% vs. 40%).
Men are also more likely to believe technology positively impacts their safety and security (45% vs. 34% of women), their productivity at home (44% vs. 28%), their work productivity (43% vs. 29%), and their work life (42% vs. 29%).
How willing are Americans to unplug?
Despite many concerns, it’s clear 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 indicate that they could make it a week or less without Internet access (67%), a computer/laptop (60%), mobile phone (59%), or television (55%), with over two in ten going so far as to state that they simply could not live without them (27%, 22%, 26% and 21%, respectively).

Just to add a dash of perspective, about four in ten said they could only make it a week or less (or not at all) without caffeine (42%) or sex (39%), with roughly two in ten saying they could not live without them – period (20% and 18%, respectively).

So what can Americans live without? Just over one quarter (26%) say they could live without sex altogether, while just 23% say the same of their computers and 18% say the same about Internet access. In other words, more Americans say they can live without sex than say they can live without the Internet or their computer!

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