Maslow’s theory affirmed the motivation of human needs and arranged a hierarchy of relevance. The bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, biological and physiological – food, water, warmth, and above this level is love and relationships. Next is self-esteem and finally at the top self-actualisation. He stated that once basic needs on the lower part of the pyramid are satisfied, new needs emerge, and society is motivated to achieve the other levels of need. He also noted that some individual might put different order on their needs; some may choose to put love ahead of food, or self-esteem before love; there is flexibility amongst the levels (Maslow, 2007). Today most humans would include their digital device and the connectivity to the online world as a basic need. I will examine the usage, online consumption, impact of our dependence on the digital world and question if information technology is indeed a basic need in the modern world. The strength and persuasive nature of information technology are changing human behaviour.
Usage of the digital world.
7.8 billion humans shared the world in 2020, and the digital population of active users in this world is 4.66 billion. (Clement, J.2020.). Society has changed because the digital world has become immersed in all structures of living and surviving. Information technology has removed borders, instantly connects, enables access to a majority. Information technology organises our day to day lives while enhancing the desire for consumerism and obsoleteness. The fabric of society is now embedded in the digital world. Research and statistics show, 59 percent of the global population actively use the internet, and the most import channel for access is the mobile one (Statista, 2020). Mobile phones have evolved from a device for answering calls or sending text messages and have become an extension of the user’s ability to function daily. A study by Izzal Zlkepli et al. (2018) claims that mobile activity usage will increase to 6.1 billion by 2020. Communication through mobile devices has increased dramatically, and studies reveal that in 2018 mobile devices generated 52% of global online activity. It is estimated that 5 billion people have mobile devices and younger people in every country are more likely to own smartphones (Sliver, 2019). Studies suggest that the first thing that people do in the morning is to check their phone. They swipe, tap, and unlock the phone 2,617 times per day. 87% of millennials say their smartphone never leaves their side and anxiety levels heighten if they ever forget their phone (Brandon. 2019).
Approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide shop online, and 28% of those sales took place on mobile devices. The main reason people shop online is for convenience. Implying the digital world is indeed assisting Maslow’s physiological needs. Average internet users spend 6.5 hours online every day (Statistics,2020). It appears that society is conducting a substantial amount of its activity and commercial affairs through their mobile device. In 2020, approximately 592 million daily app downloads to mobile devices. Social media apps and messaging apps are the most used category. The largest social media channel is Facebook, with a staggering 2.7 billion active users and 2.65 billion active mobile users (Omincore, 2020). Zoom, What’s App, Facebook Messenger, Netflix, Tik Tok and Tinder, to name a few are the most downloaded apps on a mobile platform in 2019. (Perez, S.). The most influential and instance information globally obtained through the mobile device. Mobile devices contribute to 80% of the time spent on social media compared to desktop devices. Convenience and multi-tasking seem to co-exist with the digital world (Silver et al., 2019).
The mobile device offers the user access to any platform any location encourages longing for immediate response and action to feed their need. Whatever the desire is, it is merely a click away. The strength and persuasive nature of information technology and smartphones are changing human behaviour and, most importantly, their consumerism desires. Consumerism is a notion that happiness is connected to material possession. A consumerist society desires a certain standard of living, a need and want for the latest and next best thing, continually looking for consumption (Wright, 2009). Twenty-two billion retail online visits per month in 2020, clothing, retail, and tech most purchased items. Every year the trend for E-Commerce is increasing (Statista, 2020). Social media drives consumption. Social media influencers drive consumption. Society likes to share pictures and information through their devices, which drives desires and longing among their followers and friends, a constant flow of encouraging behaviour to engage in consumerism.
Impact and Dependence
Work is now something that can be done anywhere through information communications technology; its speeds decision making in companies, employees and employers can instantly consult and respond to all. Information is efficient. Education is more interactive within the digital world, and learning has become enhanced through software. -knowledge of endless topics at the touch of a device. The top downloaded apps suggest how people in vast numbers prefer to communicate with each other through many different channels. 60% of college students in a recent study claim they are addicted to the internet and social media. Addiction connected to the dependence of information technology is becoming a real problem (Burford & Park, 2014). Society shares a lot of private information online, images, video and even personal information and locations. Society connects through messaging apps globally, locally, and nationally. Every aspect of living has become ‘Smart’ and instant. Employment, communication, leisure, e-commerce, every aspect of living is accessed and facilitated through information technology.
Scientist claims the way ones thinking and behaviour is changing because of the virtual world. It has noted that the virtual world encourages shallow thinking- worrying patterns of decreased cognitive ability to process information deeply. The constant scanning of selective information is harming the process of learning and the ability to absorb (Ryota & Kanai, 2015). A recent study in the UK of teenagers has revealed that the second and third most preferred career when asked; ‘what would you like to be with you grow up‘ was a social media influencer or YouTuber. The first choice was to become a doctor. This is an example of the shift and thought process of a young person’s mind (Malik, 2019). People view the virtual worlds of social media and wishing for the imagined perfect life of celebrities and the projection of perceived perfection. Young people waste time chatting and scrolling through apps, detailing every aspect of their lives as they go, and this may cause others, feelings of inadequate or isolation. Another impact of online activity is peer pressure and dealing with popularity, likes and always being reachable (Siddiqui & Singh, 2016).
The digital world has many positive and negative impacts; it unites communities globally, eliminates geographical borders and educates people on the many cultures and norms throughout the globe. It can highlight humanitarian injustices and corruption and become the spotlight to enforce change. It creates awareness of up-to-date information and current affairs. It recorded unprecedented global traffic online during the Covid19 pandemic crisis. Without the virtual world of information communications technology, many systems and organisations would have just ceased to exist. Society would have had limited options to communicate or none. It can become a distracting and detaching platform for society to explore.
In summary, the usage of the digital world is increasing year on year. Consumption and consumerism are thriving, generating billions of sales through online sales and activity. Finding show, all strands of society are becoming addicted and dependent on the information communications technology systems. It may well be changing behaviour and the way people think. There is no alternative for a society without virtual access. It is impossible to imagine society cope if it was removed tomorrow. The digital world has become a necessary component to live and communicate and exist. I conclude it has become a basic virtual need.
- Burford, S. and Park, S. (2014). The impact of mobile tablet devices on human information behavior. Journal of Documentation, 70(4).
- Humphreys, L. and Hardeman, H. (2020). ‘Mobiles in public: Social interaction in a smartphone era’, Mobile Media & Communication. doi: 10.1177/2050157920927062.
- Loh, K.K. and Kanai, R. (2016). How has the Internet reshaped human cognition? The Neuroscientist, 22(5), pp. 506-520.
- McLeod, S. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simply psychology, 1, pp.1-8.
- Siddiqui, S. and Singh, T. (2016). Social media its impact with positive and negative aspects. International Journal of Computer Applications Technology and Research, 5(2), pp. 71-75.
- Van Den Eijnden, R.J., Lemmens, J.S. and Valkenburg, P.M. (2016). The social media disorder scale. Computers in Human Behavior, 61, pp. 478-487.
- Zolkepli, I.A., Mukhiar, S.N.S. and Tan, C. (2020). Mobile consumer behaviour on apps usage: The effects of perceived values, rating, and cost. Journal of Marketing Communications, pp.1-23.
Tina Waldron is currently an undergraduate student on the Bachelor of Sciences (Applied Social Sciences) Degree Programme at the National University of Ireland Galway