Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I text, therefore I am?

In recent years I've thought quite a bit about the role that technology plays in our world, and I've concluded that the result is an overall negative. Now, before going on, I will admit to owning (computer, car, cell phone, television, air conditioner, etc.) and using as much modern technology as anybody. I am a product of my society. However, the broader point is that I firmly believe that much of the stuff invented since the industrial revolution has put our species on a course for destroying the fabric of our society and eventually our entire ecosystem (though the planet itself will survive us and continue on in some new iteration).

The latest evidence of this is the way that texting has overtaken people's lives -- especially the young. A New York Times article from today talks about some of the social effects of constantly texting, reporting that the average American teen now sends and receives more than 2.000 text messages a month, while for some we're talking 10,000+. They're all going to be unable to use their thumbs in 10 years. I've met 20-somethings at social affairs who could barely look up when introduced to a group and then sat down and texted the rest of the evening. Then, of course, there are those who text and drive -- whether cars or MBTA trolleys.

Technology advances without society pausing to discuss the consequences of the next big thing. Automobiles changed the way we live our lives followed by television and then the Internet. Sure, one can make a case about some of the positives that those items brought to our society -- as have cell phones, microwave ovens, AC, elevators, and on and on -- but the unraveling of the family, the village, the community and the culture that these "advances" have precipitated is disturbing and, I believe, irrevocable.


Anonymous said...

texting, and the internet is a way of life for kids today. I think you touched upon some very valid points here.This passive lifestyle deprives young people of excercise,and the development of social,and communication skills.With facebook and texting ,these kids are having "virtual" social lives.

N.starluna said...

I'm not sure I would blame texting for the decline of community. Youth have always had their own community before the proliferation of these communication technologies. In the 1980s we were constantly on the phone, so I don't see it as anything new. Remember when party lines were "invented"? Texting is just another version of the same behavior.

My observations of the young people I interact with is that these virtual and real worlds overlap to a greater extent than is often acknowledged. They make plans to meet up face to face via Facebook as often as they have extended conversations via IM and text message. I think if we embrace it to some small extent, we could probably engage young people more than we currently do.

As an urbanist, I would argue that the car, suburbanization, television, and even AC have more to do with the decline in community than cell phones and social networking websites. Indeed, these communication technologies have prompted a redefinition of community that is unconstrained by geography. I don't know that this is inherently a bad thing.

Full disclosure - I send and receive about 200 texts each month. Sometimes I prefer the asynchronicity of texting when I want to send or receive a short message.

Anonymous said...

Is there any subject in the world you are not an expert on?

N.starluna said...

I haven't had time to develop any skill in underwater basket weaving. I figure I would learn how to knit and crochet first.

cheryl said...

I have mixed feelings on this topic.

While I do agree that many technological advances have detracted from the 'old school' ways, I see just as many positive examples. Yes, life was a lot 'more simple' back then, but I know that I would have loved to do my homework using the internet (instead of huge encyclopedias), a computer or laptop beats ANY typewriter (especially for those term papers and reports), and I would have found a cell phone extremely convenient, when needing to 'call home' every time I was out.

I use all of the 'modern technologies' that you've mentioned, many times a day. I don't have any 'complaints' about using any of them, nor do I feel as though I am contributing to the demise of society.

It would help if adults/parents would include 'old school' ways in kids' lives as much as possible (e.g.: encourage person-to-person communication, limit TV-time and computer-time, etc..)

And the next time I see you driving your car, using your cell phone, watching TV, or especially cooling off in an air conditioned room, I'll be sure to remind you of the 'negatives.'