A mother stands leaning against the kitchen shelf, multitasking between replying to her emails on her phone and following an Italian recipe on her iPad. All this happens while she has given her toddler son his own iPad who sits on the rug right beside the kitchen where she can keep an eye at him.
But can she really keep a look out for her child? Is she really in a position to monitor every step her child takes with a preoccupied mind? How about the constant stimulation the child is getting when he could rather be interacting with nature? This, in no way, implies that a mother who gives an iPad to her child is a bad mother, but rather a discourse of the repercussions of technology on the iGeneration. This generation has been suffused with electronic media, while it may be a prerogative of the rich; the recent affordability of the technology makes it for the masses as well.
In the age of liquid modernity, the role of new technology is usually focused upon the bearing it has on the perception of time. A dialectical relationship comes into being when new and advanced technology promises to shorten distances and save time but instead, it has an opposite result, a complicatedly intertwined haphazard life where the individuals don’t have enough time for face-to-face interactions but they would rather stare at their digital screens. In the pursuit of digitizing our lives, we are risking losing basic social skills and becoming more interpassive.
The negative implications of this scenario ranges from imperilling the attention span to pathologizing the psychological phenomenon known as ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which is loosely defined as the incapability to pay the sustained attention. Hence, creating a negative association. While in psychology, empirical studies have been carried out to see the affects of television on attention (Anderson, 2004; Anderson and Kirkorian, 2006), and while, there isn’t enough evidence to support the statement that watching television does indeed hamper children’s capability to concentrate and pay attention (Schmidt and Anderson, 2007). The notion that media shortens the attention spans has come to be a part of the popular discourse through the work of people such as Marshall McLuhan (2004), Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer (Adorno, 1974; Adorno and Horkheimer, 2002). Influential thinkers like them are of relevance as evaluating the cost and benefits of these additions in technologies of communication hold a pivotal value.
Media has known to be comprised of an array of elements ranging from TV, mobile phones, video game consoles to iPads and Kindles – basically, putting everything in the palm of our hands – it is that convenient. While it may be just convenience at a macro level, at micro level it has deep unsettling roots which have the solid potential to eventually cause issues like dropping out of school, failure to stay at one job, etc. For an example, a study shows that by the time a boy is 21 years old, he has spent 10, 000 hours playing videos games alone. That is indeed a very daunting statistic; one, which is, ought to have its repercussions. If this is put together, it means that they haven’t learned the apt social or emotional skills, and that they reside in a world that is a creation of their imagination – the Warcraft world. And with the advent of 3D technology in an ode to create a more wholesome experience, their brains are being digitally rewired to find a traditional classroom setting as boring and not in their control which in turn might lead to high drop out rates.
It’s not just the cognition or social skills that are affected; mental health is being jeopardized as well. An unnerving report showed that 18 per cent of people reported to spend significantly more time communicating with friends and family online rather than seeing them in person. Such striking reports indicate that feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression have become widespread amongst the younger generations. A meaningful human contact is slowly disappearing from our lives as through the virtual connectivity, the need to have face-to-face interactions are no longer considered to be of fundamental value.
Our homes and workplaces are affected alike. All the technology helps one to work twice as quicker as before. Does that mean one is doing half the work done before? It means one is taking up on more work resulting in a 16-hour shift per day. E-mails have be replied to in 60 seconds because there is no way they didn’t reach on time. Peoples’ expectations in modern workplaces have dramatically shifted. We clock ourselves in digital intervals.
Philip Zimbardo’s (2010) research The Secret Powers of Time helps to explain this issue further. It claimed that we have learned to underestimate how intricately and slowly our emotional and mental well-being is being damaged and the overpowering effect on what Zimbardo and Robert Levine named “The pace of life”. Furthermore, it argues that there is an imperative need to consider the effects of technology and the way it is re-wiring peoples’ brains. People are getting comfortable measuring their life by the second. Zimbardo found out that that it only took 60 seconds for people to be outraged during their boot-up times for their personal computers. He concluded that these advancements in technologies are directing us towards a world where waiting is simply unacceptable and considered to be a waste of time.
This disease of being busy is sapping our ability for anything meaningful. Regardless of how technology is quite literally the need nowadays, one can always learn to stop a moment and appreciate what is around them. Take their children to the park and let them get muddy and dirty. Let our lives slow down even if it’s for a while. We should be able to take a couple of hours away from our gadgets, taking that time to reflect on our lives and ourselves. In this fast paced world, which waits for no one, we need to wait and remind ourselves that we are human beings, not human doings.
Adorno, T.W. (1974) Minima Moralia, trans. E.F.N. Jephcott. London: Verso.
Adorno, T. and M. Horkheimer (2002) Dialectic of Enlightenment. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Anderson, D.R. (2004) ‘Watching Children Watch Television: The Creation of Blue’s Clues’, pp. 251–68 in H. Hendershot (ed.) Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel for Kids. New York: New York University Press.
Anderson, D.R. and H.L. Kirkorian (2006) ‘Attention and Television’, pp. 35–54 in J. Bryant and P. Vorderer (eds) Psychology of Entertainment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
McLuhan, M. (2004) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Schmidt, M.E. and D.R. Anderson (2007) ‘The Impact of Television on Cognitive Development and Educational Achievement’, pp. 65–84 in N. Pecora, J.P. Murray and E.A. Wartella (eds) Children and Television: Fifty Years of Research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Zimbardo, P.G. (2004) ‘The Secret Power of Time Influences Your Decisions and the Fate of Italy and Sicily.’