How Electronics Affect Lives

By Aaron Charles

Electronics affect human relationships -- for better or for worse.
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Our connection to electronic gadgets, according to one New York Times article, can be attributed largely to the curious neurological effect it offers our brains: a dopamine squirt. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter vital for our ability to experience pleasure, spreads throughout the brain in a more widespread way as we respond increasingly to the various stimuli offered by our piles of electronic gadgets -- typically our phones, computers, radios, televisions and video game consoles. These electronics and our responses to them also have an effect on our lives in at least four major ways: practically, psychologically, physically and financially.

Practical Effects

In using electronics for practical tasks, the convenience they offer makes them almost integral to our lives. Whether working with appliances in our kitchens, the machines in our offices, the computers in our homes and vehicles or smartphones on the go, electronics pick up the daily workload of what would otherwise be manual tasks. Additionally, electronics such as GPS devices, mobile phones, computers, pagers, televisions and radios, connect us to one another both at home and around the world. Furthermore, electronics allow businesses to keep in touch at a faster pace, by connecting instantaneously via communications devices. But as much as electronics may they keep us connected, we also run the risk of being disconnected from our surroundings through their constant use. A GPS device might tell us the fastest way to get somewhere, but we'll spend more time paying attention to the unit than to the landscape on the way.

Psychological Effects

When not used in a balanced way, electronics can work against us, no matter what age we begin using them. Research shows that children are more prone to have psychological problems with constant exposure to electronics such as televisions and computers. The PEACH project in 2010 noted that children who spent more than two hours per day in front of a computer or television had more emotional and psychological problems. Also, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more exposure to electronics disturbs sleep patterns among kids, making them more "wired and tired." This electronics fatigue may last into adulthood. On the other hand, electronics may have positive psychological effects on people, including both adults and children. Organizations such as Persuasive Games, SuperBetter Labs and Quest to Learn use electronics to improve people's emotional and cognitive well being. For instance, SuperBetter Labs partnered with the Oprah Winfrey Network to create a computer game, launched in May 2012, that inspires people to spread gratitude and improve social well being.

Physical Effects

Electronics have a way of keeping people indoors instead of outdoors, "plugged-in" instead of "unplugged," meaning sedentary instead of active. In 2008, the University of Buffalo released findings that more computer and television time increases or sustains obesity among children. And because childhood obesity and the behavior that leads to it -- such as higher indoor electronics use -- leads to similar adult habits, it also has an effect on adulthood obesity. However, other types of electronics may actually inspire more physical activity. Treadmills and other indoor exercise machines encourage people to work out indoors when cold weather might discourage exercise. Similarly, GPS devices, heart and pulse monitors and other gadgets inspire people to both explore the outdoors and to make exercise into a daily challenge.

Financial Effects

Increased reliance on electronics also has monetary consequences. The Consumer Electronics Association notes that by 2013, Americans will spend annually almost $216 billion on electronics. And when you consider that some of the major electronics, such as mobile phones and televisions, also imply a service subscription of some kind, that all adds up to increasing monthly and annual expenses. On the other hand, though, computer programs that break down monthly income and expenses into graphs have helped people to budget their money. Quick access to a calculators on cell phones and smartphones help shoppers to better track how much they're spending as they shop. As is true in most areas of life, balance is the key. By keeping electronic usage balanced with better life and business habits, we can use them to affect our lives in a positive way rather than allow them to control us.