What are some disadvantages of the computer?

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Where there is a push, there is a pull, and just as computers offer many benefits to users, they bring some disadvantages as well. Using computers can negatively affect a person's health, but there are also some drawbacks in terms of practical skills and functional capabilities.

For one, reliance on computers has resulted in a shift from personal skill to tech literacy. For example, hand-writing letters, assignments, and so on is on its way out of fashion as e-mail and word processing programs replace pen and paper. There is evidence to suggest that hand-writing facilitates retention of information better than typing, but typing has the upper hand when it comes to time! We live in a society where writing is still commonly practiced, but penmanship and composition skills are suffering as many people prefer to type than write. Who knows, maybe we will someday live in a world where hand-writing is totally obsolete! For now, I believe there is a disadvantage in the loss of hand-writing skills.

Second, the nature of research and information sharing is very different from even twenty years ago. With the benefit of being able to share and search for so much information online, institutions like libraries are at risk. Even when one does go to a library to study, there can be some hurdles to overcome. To make the best use of library catalogs or internet searches, people need to know what they're looking for. Imagine a situation where someone has heard a piece of music and wants to know the title and genre. He or she could try to perform an internet search describing the instruments, pace, or what they think the genre may be, but the chances are slim that the searcher will easily find the sought-after piece of music. In contrast, by doing in-person research consultation with a librarian or expert, the opportunity for human discussion takes advantage of the knowledge banks of both the researcher and the expert. In this way, people do not need to know the specifics of what they are looking for if they can approximate the information. Internet search engines are being developed so they can closer match this human quality, and someday they may very well surpass human expertise. 

These first two disadvantages I have addressed may be dependent only upon the current state of computers. It is not unthinkable that technology will evolve to make hand-writing obsolete or offer a more natural and comprehensive research experience. I would like to point out that technology evolves much faster than the human species possibly can, and this unfortunately means that the physical disadvantages of computer use may be more difficult to overcome. 

Extensive computer use can cause eye strain, headaches, and pain in the back, neck, or wrists. Most computers are accessed while sitting, and long periods without walking or standing increases a person's risk for pulmonary embolism. Unfortunately, most people rely so heavily on computers for work, education, and entertainment that it is easy to overlook these health problems. To overcome these disadvantages, it is advised that people using computers take regular breaks (perhaps every 45 minutes or so) to relieve the eyes and refresh the body. 

There is also evidence to suggest that use of computers can have a negative impact on a person's attention span and depth of focus. Young people are especially vulnerable to developing short attention spans if they spend a lot of time engaging with computer media and "multitasking" by using multiples devices or applications at a time.