Is Technology Shifting Our Values?

By Kassandra Lopez, Global Strategic Communications graduate student at the University of Florida

I mean, sure, but what else is new?

When reflecting on Marshall McLuhan Technological Determinism, “the theory that a society’s technology determines its cultural values, social structure, and history. According to the theory, social progress follows an inevitable course that is driven by technological innovation. Technological determinism has two central concepts: 1) that technological development itself follows a predictable, traceable path that is beyond any cultural or political influence; and 2) that the technology in turn organizes society in a way to further develop itself.” In layman’s terms, the sentence “The Internet made me do it!” comes to mind.

While this theory was written many years prior to the advent of the internet, and eons before the widespread propagation of social media. It is the most applicable today and with our current societal interactions being interwoven with technology.There’s good and bad sides to being affected so deeply by technology. Here are my takeaways from looking more deeply into McLuhan’s theory and overall teachings.

One main idea of this theory is that new electronic media, radically affects how we think, feel and subsequently act. For example- it has become commonplace to be staring at your phone while another speaks to you. This new social norm is polar opposite to the prior establish idea that a person needed to be looking you square in the eye to sustain conversation!

Wile this has become commonplace, a weak point in this theory is that as humans we are very fickle beings. This trend may be frowned upon and then subsequently left behind once the allure of present social media and other engaging applications subsides, or there is a cultural reset on the matter. Furthermore, many people still refuse to perform this action as at it’s core it is disrespectful and does not lead to substantive conversation.

A second idea provided by this theory is that the changes in mode of communication shape human existence. To expand on this, it is important to note that that social media and other technology usage shocks your brain with rushes of dopamine that cause an addiction to form! Our current human existence is very reliant on technology, for example if I lost power or internet connection at this very moment — I wouldn’t be able to complete this article as intended. I am literally reliant on this technology to complete an essential task. In my personal life, as a social media manager, I interact with technology to complete daily functions. A downside to this, is that in the absence of technology- people would most likely simply adjust to previous ways of communication. Although, bothersome and quite unimaginable, we could go back to newspapers. The world would not end tomorrow if the internet ended, it would simply adjust.

Lastly, this theory explains how changes in technology affect the cultural landscape. I can see this aspect being applicable in so many forms- from storytelling traditions, to cook books going digital. Technology has affected how traditions are remembered and preserved for future generations. A notable downside is that exposure to the world at such an exacerbated rate, has exposed many cultures to a rapid globalization that erodes cultural traditions. Thinking positively, technology also has the ability to share cultural listens and educate others. A small way I’ve incorporated technology into my own exploration of culture, is as simple as opening up Google and searching “Thai food near me” and being given dozens of option I’d been previously ignorant to.

First-gen Cuban and Argentine. Full-time Marketer. BA in Humanities/Cultural Traditions, Art History + Anthro. MA in Global Communications + Social Media