Technological Disconnect

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For most children, relating to one another is very different today than just a generation ago. No more playing outdoor games of hide-and-seek and bike riding with the neighbor kids. Today kids are
connected to one another differently-through information age technology. How has this impacted the way they relate?

Submitted: April 16, 2011

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Submitted: April 16, 2011

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I am in my early 50’s-not quite a senior yet, but definitely climbing that steep hill. Growing up, I lived in a world quite different from the one I live in now. My children, now adults, marvel that my generation, the Baby-boomers, had none of the information age technologies they rely on now such as: cellular phones, computers, CD's, DVD's, fax machines, color television, portable music players (iPods/MP3's, etc.), video game systems, digital cameras, social computer networking sites, computer dating sites, etc. Thier world is ripe with technology; in fact, they have become outright dependent on it. They have cell phones which offer unlimited texting and they receive up to 300 texts daily. My children cannot imagine the "impoverished" life I had!

I say that with a grin, because I don't consider an IT-free childhood a disadvantaged childhood. Though it was simple, it was natural, and as a result I was rail-thin and muscular. When my parents sent me out to play, my time was spent exercising: whizzing at break-neck speeds on my bike (with no helmet), making jumps for our bikes, building tree forts, climbing trees (and skinning knees), playing hour-long games of hide-and-seek, and lazy summers playing basketball and simply visiting with neighborhood friends while listening to FM radio. We watched black and white TV and had to get up to change the channels by hand. We watched wholesome shows like Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers. We didn't need an answering machine because we were the answering machine (we'd hollar, "Mom! Phone!"). And the phones were rotary dial which stuck to the wall with long tangled chords that stretched a mile.

We interacted socially because we had to. There were no video games or 500-channel TV's, no emails or texts to answer. We had just you and me and so we learned to listen to each other and relatde to one another on a very personable level. Ive asked myself how this technological revolution has impacted interpersonal communication? Has it been a positive development or has it crippled our interpersonal communication skills and our ability to be proficient listeners? Are we more or less "present" to those around us?

Overall I believe the information age has been a very positive development for commerce. It has created a world wide web of business and trade interconnectedness so that small businesses can expand at the speed of cell phones, emails, faxes and the international delivery planes and trucks. It has made education available for home schooling and online college educations. It has brought world news and knowledge to every country in the world, into our homes, and even to our cell phones. Knowledge shared has improved living conditions and relieved countries of poverty that otherwise would still be suffering. Technology has developed new methods to diagnose and treat diseases and developed cures for diseases. It has broken down communication barriers due to distance. The sharing of information due to the WWW has catapulted the world into a large village where an internet connection can mean the difference between life or death. Technology in the 20th century has been our greatest achievement.

However, gone are the lazy days of Summer. For most children, no more biking at break-neck speeds, climbing trees and playing hide and seek with the neighbor kids until after the sun goes down. Today parents are afraid of leaving their children unattended, and rightly so. Instead, you see kids in the house in front of the TV, either watching it or playing video games. Or they are playing their hand-held video games. The neighborhood kids look curiously at the other neighborhood kids, but don't cross that invisible boundary because today it may not be safe to go play in the neighbor's house. Children have become isolated. They go to school and play with kids in class, but don't know the neighbor kids. Instead, like my teenage daughter did, they text their friends from home or play on the computer. Today's children are interwoven in a technological social village instead of having a face-to-face interpersonal circle that they can rely on. There aren't gangs of neighborhood kids banding together for fun any longer. Instead they relate online or via text. Technology has created an invisible barrier between people. What repercussions has this caused?

It seems that today's children have a very short attention span. They are in a hurry to get on to the next thing. Listening is not a skill which they know well. They are used to being entertained and at the touch of a button. They are used to instant everything- instant meals at the drive through, instant communications via text or instant messaging, music videos whose images flash a new image every 4 seconds...instant, instant, instant! Their wants are satiated immediately. I believe this has created a culture of intolerance of the older generation whose childhoods were much less hurried. They've also developed a thirst for efficiency. Patience is a lost art. Empathetic listening is boring. There is an interpersonal connection that has been lost in this technological trade-off. Our society has traded human sympathy, empathy and patience for speed and efficiency. I believe this interpersonal disconnection has left us all at a loss for how to genuinely connect from the heart with one another.

My hope is that the generation to come will find more of a balance between technology and human relatedness. I don’t expect that the lazy days of Summer will ever return. What I hope is that my children who move at the speed of the information age will also learn to communicate with genuineness and compassion that springs only from the heart. Then we will have the best of both worlds.


© Copyright 2018 Devi Nina Bingham. All rights reserved.

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