Safe or sorry: How much technology is too much?

After months of scrolling, liking and sharing on social media, Noah Milian logged off, put his phone down, and felt relieved.

“I thought to myself, ‘Is this something beneficial to my life?’ And I just kind of came to the conclusion that there are better ways to have more personal connections with people and not put your life on a stage,” the 17-year-old Milian said.

However, Milian’s concerns are not the only matter. In today’s world, there are serious safety issues associated with technology.

“I think technology is a double-edged sword,” said Lt. Lieutenant Trevor Shinn of the University of Miami Police Department. “While it can be helpful, we’ve also seen it cause devastation.”

Social media’s proliferation is often seen in a positive light, especially with the recent surge of app startups in Miami. But not everybody utilizes these technologies, and with the rate of public incidents rising, a life with limited technology may be a safer one.

(from left) Lieutenants Benjamin Hedrick and Trevor Shinn pose next to their UM Patrol car. (Photo by Morgan Elmslie)

“We have seen an increase in accidents due to texting and driving,” UM Patrol Lt. Benjamin Hedrick said. “So, while it can be a convenience, it can be a danger as well.”

And the impact of technology can often reach beyond the roads. With apps such as Snapchat now allowing others to see one’s location at any time, caution is becoming more necessary.

“I think that that is inherently unsafe,” Milian said. “It’s not a smart thing to leave on and then forget about…You want to make sure you have control over those things.”

The risks, however, are often overlooked. According to the Pew Research Center, one-fifth of Americans report going online “almost constantly,” while 42 percent go online several times a day.

“Technology – and especially social media – they’re addictive,” Milian said. “So getting a hit on Instagram, that’s dopamine going into your brain. It causes your reward system to say ‘Oh, we like that.’ That’s addictive, and you’re gonna want to do that again and again.”

While these dangers are apparent, Hedrick also emphasized  technologies that can make communities safer.

“We have mobile speed trailers on the sides of the road. People can see what their speed is as they drive, which has definitely contributed to safety,” Hedrick said.

“We also have traffic intersection cameras that monitor the areas,” Shinn added. “People may perceive it as a bad thing at first, because they get a ticket in the mail. But then we start to see a change in the behavior of that intersection.”

Other technologies offer a more social benefit. The Swarmer app, recently launched in the city of Miami, allows users to connect with each other as well as split the bill at events.

“We’re in 2017 now… I think that if you’re not using a smartphone, you’re definitely living an archaic life,” Swarmer CEO Derrick Abellard said. “These apps make life much, much easier.”

However, Milian believes that social media apps such as Swarmer can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle.

“I would agree that it makes people more lazy. I think social media in general is kind of just loads of information force-fed through whatever platforms you use,” Milian said.

“So you never go out and search for more information, you just see it on Facebook and think that you don’t need anything else.”

As technology advances daily, citizens’ lives have been made simpler and more efficient. However, it is still questionable whether this accessibility is worth the risk of public safety.

“There are services that are definitely aimed at providing safety, and that’s a good thing,” Milian said. “But the services that aren’t, like Snapchat tracking your location… it can get dangerous and out of hand really fast.”

Watch this video to learn more about her story.