Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Is our high tech world messing with our brains?!

I've been contemplating that question for the last few days, because several incidents have highlighted the different ways different generations communicate.

I guess it's something people have been wondering about for a very long time. Socrates got worried when the masses learned how to read and write that they would lose their traditions of passing folklore and history by word of mouth, and thus only gain superficial knowledge and none of the personal inflection and underlying meaning you can pick up thru direct human interaction. He also worried that the mind would become slack, because it wouldn't have to train itself to memorize things when readers could simply refer back to a text on the shelf . . . or a scroll in his days, I suppose.

Much more recently, my parents' generation were the first to be exposed to the "vast wasteland" of television. People were worried then that too much exposure to the boob-tube would lead to detachment and passivity. Ironically, in my own generation, similar worry warts (like Tipper Gore) worried the same sort of exposure to TV, music, and video games would lead to violence and depravity.

Now, all kinds of folks are worried how digital age technologies like the internet and smart phones are affecting this generation of youngsters. Kids today don't pass notes back in forth in the classroom, as my friend Lisa recently pointed out to me. Instead they text each other. Wierd, huh?

Some serious scholars are looking into this. I found an article by a psychiatrist named Gary Small out at UCLA who theorizes that all this texting, emailing, and IMing is robbing us all (but young people in particular) of social skills. For example, he mentioned some teenagers lack the ability to accurately interpret facial expressions during face-to-face conversations.

Another researcher, Maryanne Wolf at Tufts University, is exploring how being wired affects "deep reading." Like Socrates, she believes technology is affecting knowledge retention as minds grow lax and dependant on easy reference to info thru tools like google and yahoo.

I'm a little more optimistic. From the dawn of time, the way we communicate has evolved and changed the way we think. But, the reverse is also the case. By changing the way our minds process and store information, we come up with newer and greater innovations.

So, don't despair! Vive la revolution!

And, just wait a couple decades. Today's whippersnappers will be just as perplexed by the world their kids create as we are now . . . it's just human nature!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home