by Peggy Fincher Winters, Arthur A. Winters, Connie Rauen, Jack Rauen
ISN’T IT TIME to EVALUATE THE POTENTIAL NEGATIVE EFFECTS of DIGITALIVING by “DIGITIES”?
Are you close to any children or pre-teens who spend most of their free (or demanded free) time with digital companionship? Are they in a world of virtual experiencing and so-called learning? Could a “Digitie”, as we have termed them, get more from in-person, face-to-face contact with friends, family and teachers? Have you noticed any decrease in the verbal skills of heavy digital users?
These issues are making people of all ages fidgety with all the “Digities”. Yes, the genie is out of the bottle and we cannot go back in time, nor would we want to. However, we do need to pay closer attention to the changes being made to our society and to our actual brain structure! Much is being researched and written about this current development and we in our industries must be aware of how it is affecting our business and our students, children, employees and colleagues, not to mention ourselves.
Young people from pre-adolescent to their twenties want to live in a world of digital devices — such as smart-phones, laptop computers, tablets, and all of the newest digital inventions. They have been born into this new world and don’t really know a life without PDAs.
Some of our observations include how many “Digities” are more engrossed in texting, social networking and playing videos or games than in downloading and reading books. They do not or rarely use snail mail and the “talking” part of a phone. Most if not all of their business transactions of buying, selling, bill paying, etc., are done on-line. We are seeing that most smart phone users prefer quick texting over slower-to-open email! And did you know that January 23rd is National Handwriting Day? How many schools are teaching cursive writing?
Now you may be thinking that what we have here is a huge generation gap or fissure occurring. Well yes, that may be part of it. But when we have seen students struggle when required to hand write their authentication statement on their college-standardized tests… And when we hear that grandchildren cannot read their non-digital grandparents’ letters and greeting cards?? You might remember the quote from the 1967 movie, “Cool Hand Luke” — “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”
We don’t mean to add to our culture’s stress level nor stop progress. And, we are not joining the Luddites and Troglodytes. However, we would suggest that we might all need to seek a balance between the non-digital and full-on digital worlds. We do wish to avoid a digital divisiveness in the wave of progress.
A Digital Life Style (DLS) may now employ devices that provide self-oriented creative experiences in a world of their own. This could make an individual more inclined to rely on technology than on themselves and others. They could be so attached to their screens that there is no opportunity or desire to use teamwork to create in the classroom and the workplace. Current surveys indicate that teamwork is a key requirement in innovation and creativity in the workplace. Our world depends on cooperation and coalitions. Other studies are showing how we are losing our skills for deductive reasoning by being presented with “information” or “factoids” without any attempt to connect the dots and develop understanding in context and actual development of knowledge.
It is now more evident that those living in the digital world are producing even more worlds of their own. Are they going deeper down the digital rabbit hole? Is this already a permanent condition and chosen lifestyle? Do they or we have the option to not join the “Digitie-Age?” It is not difficult to surmise that an overuse of digital technology can and most likely is separating the “Digities” from interactive, non-digital experiences with others, as suggested above.
So, should or could there be limits placed on Internet digital connectivity and total reliance on these resources? Many parents and teachers are fighting with this difficult situation everyday! Studies are showing both youth and adult “Digities” suffer withdrawal pains when separated from their digital devices. The travel industry is offering “disconnected,” device-free vacation sites around the world to encourage people to take a break from being available and wired 24-7. Some parents are calling in all their children’s PDA’s at a set bedtime and prohibiting them at the dinner table.
It may take many years to fully evaluate the evolving effects that this “world of their own” could and is having on a developing human being. Will they be more intelligent and able to handle our world’s problems without more interactive experiences with others? Will they have the judgment of critical thinking to develop actual wisdom for making sound decisions?
One development is the advancement into “Artificial Intelligence — AI”. If humans create AI that becomes self-powered and more intelligent than us, without our human values, then where will we be? This is not a science-fiction movie any more!
There is no denying that individuals are more and more living in a world of their own with the help of digital devices. We see in the fashion world that they are literally being woven into our textiles and clothing! Body implants are in use with GPS devices. How long before knowledge implants are de rigueur? Imagine implanting a Rosetta Stone language disk into your brain without having to study and practice to become fluent?
So the big question becomes: Who will be in control? What will be our choices? And even more so, will technology in the private “worlds of their own” decrease or increase our creative, strategic, abstract, and moreover, critical thinking? Who will be capable of making the critical decisions of our time, “their time”?
Will we be able to think for ourselves or will we all be drunk on “Techila?”
Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.