A Worry I Have (January 17)

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I’m going to let you in on something that concerns me, quite a bit. I don’t know what to do about it, in a community-wide sense, and I don’t know what the repercussions are, if any, but I believe it has to have some kind of effect. This concern of mine is constant stimulation via modern media sources.

When I used to drive to work at around 7:15 am, I would see junior high and high school students waiting for the bus, and I noticed that these kids never were stuck waiting without an electronic source of stimulation. They all have smart phones.

So here we have two phenomena, and honestly I’m not sure which is the most significant to our youth’s minds: one, social media and always being “plugged in,” or two, the fact that they experience, via smartphones, a zillion amazing things or bits of information that hasn’t been a part of the history human experience, except in the last dozen or so years.

The first issue is talked about, although probably not enough, or at least not acted upon enough. That is, exposure to social media, cyber bullying, mature content for immature minds- all that stuff. Schools offer parent workshops to educate parents on this huge change in behavior and activity among kids, and how to monitor and make appropriate limits. This all good. I think most of us can probably do more. But this is at least somewhat being talked about.

The second issue I have yet to see being discussed anywhere that I can recall. Before a teenager arrives to school, or an adult to work, etc. etc., they can see a zillion amazing things. What I mean is, they can easily pull up YouTube videos of fireworks at DisneyWorld, or watch movies or TV shows, or watch videos of Hatchimals hatching, or videos of aurora borealis over the Arctic Circle, whatever it may be. I just wonder if this exposure to amazing things is going to affect us.

Or, how about this wonderful shame-prevention tool: Google. We never have to ask questions anymore to another human, risking ourselves looking ignorant or uneducated! We can just ask google and bypass the process of working up the nerve to ask questions.

So, I just wonder: we have everything at our fingertips. We only “wonder” about something for as long as it takes our WiFi signal to bring back the search results. We don’t bother asking someone how something works or what something is like, we don’t have to practice that bravery muscle of working up the nerve to ask and learn how to be curious. We have access to so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences right at our fingertips, we don’t have to wait to experience it on our own. Don’t get me wrong, I am first in line to google questions or use the internet for shortcuts or to be able to virtually experience amazing things from around the world. But I do just wonder if this will end up having a negative effect on humankind as time goes on. Anyone above 30 at least can remember having to write things out in younger grades, wait for the school bus with the most stimulation being a book or a walkman, and having to call people or write actual letters to a penpal. The generations younger than 30 have never experienced that. They have only known a google/copy-and-paste/click-bait culture. I mean, with google docs, you don’t even have to click “save” anymore. Think about that- we don’t even have to be responsible of preventing lost documents- it just automatically backs up on the cloud!

I guess we’ll see how it affects emotional, mental, physical, and community health. My worry is that it will make life experiences less special and maybe make us more dumb or haphazard, or diminish our interpersonal skills further. I guess it’s already affecting us in this way, as mindfulness is such a hot topic, and for goodness sakes, mindfulness is simply the practice of living in the moment. Funny how we have to “practice” that these days!

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