Every passing generation brings with it a slew of changes and societal shifts that are often seen as frightening and overwhelming to those who are not wrapped up in these new movements. For millennia many parents have looked at the time their children are living in and sighed deeply, wondering what became of the world they grew up in? When they were kids they walked ten miles in the snow just to get to school. They drank from the garden hose and played outside. Life was more difficult, but life was good. I think you understand where I'm going with this.
Sherry Turkle, author of "The Flight from Conversation," writes about this brave new technological world in a light that sounds similar to the aforementioned parents. The reader can almost hear her sighing throughout the piece. Turkle looks at our changing world as something to be feared, a desolate lonely place where we are "alone together." According to Turkle, we are all so obsessed with our devices that we no longer understand the art of conversation and often mistake connection with conversation. Basically, as a society we have lost the ability to really relate and learn from one another. In Turkles eyes, we've become so self-interested that we feel as though every social interaction is too overwhelming to handle and would prefer robots over real, living human friends.
Turkle seems to be issuing a warning, wildly waving her hands in the air, telling us to slow down. If we don't stop to examine the consequences of the world that we are stepping into, we may never be able to go back.
Although I believe that Turkle has gone too far in terms of grouping all technology users (especially Millennials) together as one mindless, disinterested generation, I do think that she makes a couple of valid points. Towards the end of her article she discusses the need to establish "device-free" zones, to look up from the tiny keyboards that consume so much of our attention. I think that society overall does need to think about being intentional when it comes to time and place for technology use. I don't like it when friends are on their phones at dinner. When I was a cashier I hated ringing out customers who were on their phones. I don't like to use social media on a daily basis, because I know for me personally, too much screen time makes me feel depressed. Do I think that all of this new technology is going to ruin our society? No. I think we are more resilient than Turkle argues. I do think it's
necessary to proceed with caution and a clear sense of when phones/devices are appropriate for use and when they are not.
Unlike the stereotypical adult who scoffs at the lifestyle and interests of the most current generation, Michael Wesch has embraced many of the changes that have taken place among children and young adults living in the technology revolution. Wesch, a college professor, has concluded that what his students crave more than anything else is exactly what Turkle says has been lost. According to Wesch, students want to have conversations, they want to be engaged . With the right questions being asked, Wesch claims that the classroom can become a space of truly deep learning. Gone are the days of neatly arranged rows facing the podium in the front of the room. Students do not need a professor to provide them with a basic set of low-level academic knowledge, anything they want to know can be looked up almost instantaneously. Wesch sees new techonolgy as a tool that can be used to "turn over control" of the classroom, social media can be used as an interface for a "local learning network."
I'm sure that the television, radio and other advances in technology had many people worried when first presented. Change is very difficult to handle and every change comes with its own set costs and benefits. What Turkle needs to understand is that technology isn't going anywhere. We can either learn to use it to our advantage (as in the case of Wesch) or allow it to be our downfall.