Technology… the knack of so arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it. ~Max Frisch
Our devotion to technology is exceeding our commitment to our live relationships, or so says the many reports about the far-reaching impact that our devices have on everything from intimate partnerships to the raising of children. Forget the imminent danger of smart phones and moving vehicles, there are laws to protect us from ourselves for that. But on a more intimate level, our collective distraction levels fueled by the belief that something more important than what we are doing, or someone more interesting than the person we are with is waiting for us and is just a chime away on our smart phone. Our innate human need to connect is being multiplied by the exponential power of technology and in the process creating a new version of ourselves. Some researchers compare it to addictive behaviors, but most young people I know just think this is how it was always meant to be.
Recent research has started to uncover the impact of this recent rewiring of our brain and the inherent multi-tasking that our mobile and entertainment devices create. Frequent users of technology suffer serious deficits in their ability to focus and problem solve. This is even true among young children who are routinely accustomed to dealing with three or more technologies at a time. At the work place, many employees who work with computers now use up to 37 various programs and technologies in an hour.
Even more concerning is how technology is impacting the development of our infants and children. One significant measure of a child’s development is through language acquisition. Parents who are continuously distracted by their smart phones and digital devices speak dramatically less to their babies and toddlers, effectively transforming the advantages that more educated parents have without thinking, long bestowed on their children.
I know that I am guilty of the digital neglect that many if not most children now accept as the landscape of their childhoods. My children are older and understand with resignation the imperative I have about my work life which fuels my own smart phone obsession. But I remember well when they were younger, and all you could do was talk on a cell phone, how they would go out of their way to create increasingly louder levels of distraction to reclaim my attention. “R U here Mom?” is not just the text message I receive from them when they are waiting to be picked up. The insidious lack of attention that happens from sitting side by side, each of us immersed in a separate universe in our respective devices is hardly being together at all.