Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mind Control Device Under Our Finger Tips

I'm currently half way through a two-week leave of absence from my beloved iPhone. The details aren't important, but I'm now past the detox phase. While I like to claim that I use it to enhance my professional life, the truth is a tad bit sketchier. The degree to which it enhances my productivity is countered by the amount of time I use it as a digital pacifier. Tweet here, score update there, status update to boot…. I like to think of myself as above the common fray where powerful digital devices are used for mindless pleasure and distraction (think of the iPhone as a digital shovel in an all day game of Farmville), but in reality I'm not. The Canton Repository published a small piece in their Op Ed section marking the passing of Ray Bradbury in their June 7th edition. In describing the impact of his novel Fahrenheit 451, the editor said this: “More profoundly, he foresaw the potential of electronic technology as a weapon of control and oppression, not only through surveillance but also through mindless distraction.” It is this mindless distraction that I see plaguing our students today. Advertisers fill our airwaves with a steady diet of messages that pitch entertaining oneself as the highest calling a human being can aspire to. With a society that has completely abandoned the concept of limit setting as a valuable tool to develop self-control, the current generation of youth is walking around with their faces glued to screens. As I continue down the pathway towards true middle age, I am becoming acutely aware of how precious the resource of time is, and how fragile and fleeting 24 hours can be. I am concerned that digital natives, those who have never known life without devices, will lack the ability to moderate their use of devices in order to create spaces in their lives where they have the opportunity to think, ponder, and reflect without the constant drum of digital distractions. In 10th grade Biology, my teacher was giving a lesson on the impact of vitamins on the human body. She noted that taken in moderation, vitamins could have positive effects on health. However, taken in excess, vitamins have the potential to cause harm. Her tag line, which has always stuck with me, was “Too much of a good thing is bad”. How apropos in the fast-forward, hyper connected world in which we live.