Wired but Searching to Connect
Today I went to lunch with a friend. The restaurant hostess may never recover from the trauma of our technological blunder, as we did not have our cell phones to be paged when a table became free. She hardly knew how to respond. As we enjoyed our lunch there were four women beside us all texting and e-mailing intermingled with a few selfies which included photos of what they were clearly not eating. They did not interact with each other very much as they seemed mesmerized by their phones. On the other side of us was a young father reading his extensive number of e-mail messages, texting and he even managed two phone calls. His young son was pelting his little sister with rolled up pieces of pizza and kicking her under the table, unbeknownst to Dad, who was engaged with his phone. Ironically, it seems, the more we are connected the more disconnected we seem to become.
It is impossible to articulate all the positives that technology has given to us over the past 60+ years. We are able to carry all our music, photos, video of loved ones or messages from our friends in the palm of our hands. Technology via medical and scientific research has saved countless lives and made astounding discoveries. .“E-mail, for example, has revived the almost lost art of letter writing… On-line services and the Internet permit people to meet others who share their interests, regardless of location…” (Greenspan 176) We see dictators shutting down web access and global social media sites in an effort to control their populations and keep the eyes of the world from observing nefarious human rights violations, the moment they happen. Technology has given journalists the tools that allow us to instantaneously witness any joyful or tragic event from anywhere on the globe and beyond. This connectedness to any and all parts of the world is both comforting and yet addictive as we shop, interact, friend thousands all over the world, pay our bills while at the theater and try valiantly to keep up with constant technological upgrades.
Technology has hurled us into the 21st century but we are moving at a pace that is causing concern and stress related side effects, with no age barrier. Our homes are not always the refuge or resting places we expect them to be. Home is often more like a pit stop on the race- way called the information super highway. New and more efficient technology and ‘time saving devices’ have done little to aid with the rush and frenzy of our lives. We do not really need to read Gleick’s book to understand his concept of ‘hurry sickness’. We are always connected !!!
ALWAYS CONNECTED YET DISCONNECTED
Theorists have articulated one of the side effects of our 24 hour a day connectedness as being increased disconnectedness. “People increasingly lack face-to face interaction at their jobs. The opportunity for the emotional growth afforded by genuine human interchange is much reduced….. technology is increasingly being used in ways that reduce personal contacts in the interest of efficiency or cost cutting. Automatic teller machines replace familiar faces; ‘voice mail’…. Ordering goods by phone, fax, or e-mail cuts down on trips to the store and impromptu encounters that nurture relationships with neighbors. Faxes and e-mail are even substituted for chats with the person at the next desk. Entertainment delivered by television, electronic ‘home theaters,’ and personal computers means fewer ventures out into public places crowded with others. In thousands of small way, people’s opportunities to spend time interacting individually with those who know them well are evaporating…we will see that nations as well as individuals can coexist only in a world where people know each other well and understand one another’s particular needs, motives, and intentions. Lack of such understanding brings needless peril.” (Greenspan p 176)
Edward Hallewell expresses similar concerns. He states “There are two main reasons why our world is ‘ADD-ogenic.’ First is the electronic communications network that envelops all of us. … all these technical wonders have so connected us that we are constantly reachable. This means we are constantly expected to reach back….The second factor that contributes to creating pseudo-ADD in modern life is the reverse of the first. As hyperconnected as we are electronically, we are disconnected socially…..We therefore see two powerful factors, electronic connectedness on the one hand and social disconnectedness on the other, combining to create a modern landscape that induces the symptoms of ADD. While only 5 percent of the population has true ADD, I’d guess about 50 percent has pseudo- ADD.” (Hallowell WYWACYL p 102,103)
The significance for those who study type is profound. The use of a style instrument assists in opening lines of communication so much needed in today’s more connected but disconnected world.
MINDS ARE CHANGING
Not only in our jobs or recreational hours changed significantly but much more importantly the lives of our children have been dramatically altered by our new fast paced,multi-tasking, quick reflexed spectacularly vivid technological world. Many theorists have been warning us for decades that the world we live in is actually biologically altering our children’s minds. “The discovery that the outside world is indeed the brain’s real food is intriguing. The brain gobbles up its external environment in bits and chunks….. Then the digested world is reassembled in the form of trillions of connections between brain cells that are constantly growing or dying, or becoming stronger or weaker, depending on the richness of the banquet.” (Kotulak p 4)
Jane Healy also warned through her books ‘Endangered Minds” and “Failure to Connect” that children’s experiences do in fact alter the brain significantly because much of the brain’s structure does depend directly on the way it is used. Healy has been saying for decades that we must consider the issue of changing brains acknowledging that not only will students display profound differences in processing information, decreased attention span, a deterioration in non-intellective factors needed for efficient learning but also an inability to regulate emotional life.
The media provides such intense emotional experiences they must go unmatched in real life.
“One of this century’s best-kept secrets is the way in which technology has transformed
violence into a spectacle of stunning beauty. Violence, when it’s stylized, when it’s choreographed and hyper accelerated or played in slow motion, when it is set to the strains of a poignant Beethoven sonata, the minimalist pulses of a Philip Glass creation, or the tremulous strains and corrosive screams of a Diamanda Galas vocal, can be thrillingly sublime and breathtakingly beautiful. Since the advent of cinema and television we’ve been blessed with endless variation: several heads floating through the air in all the splendor only freeze-frame decapitation can convey; severed arms gliding down elevator shafts while still pulsing huge arcs of blood.” (Steinberg & Kincheloe pg. 115)
To keep individuals connected to real life, real emotion and satisfying relationships becomes a necessary task that may also need to be orchestrated as these may no longer be automatic in our connected world. For those of us who are of an age when ‘play dates’ or ‘online dating’ did not exist the more formal orchestration of relationships seems unnecessary but it appears to be a necessity for those changing minds of our most technologically adept generations.
Our increased disconnectedness comes at a time when theorists have finally decided that it is emotion that is one of the key factors in our ability to think critically, to learn effectively to remember accurately and to handle the every day stresses of our lives. At a time when we read of the importance of emotional issues, emotional IQ and emotional well being it is strange that the very nature of our lives makes it increasingly more difficult to keep and maintain healthy emotional balance.
The application of type theory can be effectively applied where collegiality needs to be encouraged, where relationships must be the main focus or where conflicting philosophies exist. As generation after generation of minds change it becomes essential to focus on communication issues as well as all our new spectacular technological advances.
Davis, John (1996) Educating Students in a Media Saturated Culture Technomic Publishing Co. Inc.
Gleick, James (1999) Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything Pantheon Books, Random House, Inc, New York / Toronto.
Greenspan, Stanley (1997) The Growth of the Mind:The Endangered Origin of Intelligence. Perseus Books, Reading, Massachusets.
Hallowell, Edward D. & Ratey, John J. (1994 ) Driven to Distraction New York: Pantheon
Healy, Jane M. (1990) Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don’t Think. Simon and Schuster, New York
Kotulak, Ronald (1997) Inside The Brain: Revolutionary Discoveries of How the Mind Works Andrews McMeel Publishing. Kansas City.
Steinberg, Shirley & Kincheloe, Joe Editor (1998) Kinderculture:The Corporate Construction of Childhood Westview Press, Perseus Books L.L.C. Boulder, Colorado.