Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anti-Social Media

I hate technology.

Scratch that.  I don't hate technology.  I hate the fact that people use technology as an excuse to call themselves "connected" when, in reality, they are the most disconnected, anti-social, and often the most anti-informed people on the face of the earth.

Social Networking technology is nothing more than an excuse to communicate through a machine, something only the extremely disabled did not more than a few years ago.  What?  We're all into being the next Stephen Hawking minus the brain?  Is that what's cool?

Recently, I was asked if I was familiar with Wikis, a tool created to facilitate interoffice communication by eliminating as much face-to-face communication as possible.  Mind you, I was asked this by co-workers whose offices are literally twenty steps down the hall from mine.  I'm "encouraged" to come to the annual staff dinner, but when it comes to actually working on projects together who needs a face and a voice when you've got an Internet connection?

But it's worse than that.  I've been at social gatherings where the attendees are too busy blogging or Facebooking to actually talk to the people sitting next to them-- who are also hooked into their laptops or texting on their phones.  We're so busy being virtually social that we've literally lost the art of holding a good conversation.

Check out Beloit College's Mindset List and you'll find that, to the incoming class of 2014, "'digital' has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. ...They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform."  Most strikingly, the Mindset List notes that incoming freshman, "...will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge." 

In other words, these kids today are so busy pushing buttons and absorbing whatever shows up that they're too busy to tell if what they're encountering is fact or fiction.  This is postmodernism at its finest: move over, Peter Griffin; you're not as fast and flashy as Facebook. 

Speaking of which, I've spent more time screwing with the code bugs on Facebook in order to get readers to this blog than actually writing content.  Then again, who cares?  Content doesn't matter; hits do.  Who cares what you say, how you say it, or even if it is correct-- as long as spell check has done its thing and you're writing in 140 characters or less, you're a hit.  Or a thousand.  That all depends on the speed of your fingers and your wireless connection. 

Wait a minute-- when did the need for speed and accuracy take place over the need for quality content?  Have our thoughts finally entered the industrial age?  Is our ability to independently think and express now gauged solely by how quickly we can distribute those expressions far and wide?  Since when did delivery matter more than content when it came to ...thinking?

There are scary real-life consequences to this lack of attention span and absent fact-filter among today's "Generation Y" (ages 30 & younger).  A new survey released today indicates that Gen Y Moms communicate with their children via Facebook, text, and email versus face-to-face dialogue.  Those kids are going to have some serious social skills when they grow up.  If you think receiving your wedding proposal via text is cute, try typing just your part of the whole ceremony.  Think of the savings!  "Sorry, we would've had a reception, but we didn't have time to book the venue, the food, or the entertainment.  So we all got you these disposable phones so you could Facebook the wedding instead.  Thanks for coming!"

This factoid is a real gem:  The Yahoo News article titled "Generation Y is Giving Cars a Pass" quotes one expert who says, "“This generation focuses its buying on computers, BlackBerrys, music and software and views commuting a few hours by car a huge productivity waste when they can work using PDAs while taking the bus and train."  Cars, the symbols of freedom and independence, are now shoved to the side in favor of digital devices that connect audiences of one with the rest of the virtual world.  The article also cites the fact that many Gen-Y'ers see cars as "damaging to the environment."  Yeah.  Right.  That's why they're so eager to pile onto those mass transit vehicles that send exhaust soaring into the atmosphere--something they'd know of and avoid if they were driving in the cars behind those nasty Public Transit buses.  They don't care about carbon footprints, where they're going, or who is in the driver's seat:  This generation just wants to be left alone with their techy toys.  Now that's what I call connected.

George Orwell wrote of a time when Big Brother monitored thought criminals through telescreens.  As futuristic as Orwell's writing was for the audience of his day, today's generation only knows Big Brother as a British television import.  I suppose that's because an hour of nothing is faster and easier than a few hours of ideas that are real and lasting and have even more meaning today than when they were originally put to paper in 1949. 

To be sure, life is faster and easier with technology.  And because we've foregone the ability and the time to analyze and contemplate the world that we have become, one-by-one we're making the ride down the cultural toilet faster and easier by-- however fast your wireless connection can take you there.

Now, please pardon me while I go Facebook and Tweet that this posting has been made.

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