Someone on the radio was saying the other day that we humans are not biologically ready for all the technology that we’ve developed in the last couple of hundred years. They said that this is especially true of technologies like the internet, where a ton of information is available at our fingertips, but our brains are nowhere near ready to take it all in. Furthermore, they said that social media is connecting us in a very disconnected way. While we are sharing and keeping up with one another more than ever, we are also losing out on some person-to-person connections near us that are necessary for a healthy mind.
I’ve recently deleted my Facebook application from my phone and iPad in order to be just a little bit more disconnected from the craziness shared on a continuous stream by my friends and some of my colleagues. Those of you who follow me on Facebook might think that I’m lying because I sure to post a lot of information and comments online. Here’s a secret… It’s not all me.
For quite a while, since about 2007, I’ve been trying out different technologies that allow me to post information to Twitter and Facebook at specified times and from specific content. These used to be actual “bots” in every sense of the word. However, ever since it became clear that Russian bots had something to do with seeding a lot of discontent on social networks, there’s been a lot of de-authorization of such automated programs. So now I use a scheduling program to post.
But I still can’t help but type the URL for Facebook or Twitter on my laptop when I’m doing other stuff, stuff that I should be focused on. So I get distracted and end up worrying about people and things that I should not worry about. I mean, so what if so-and-so is on their sixth relationship in the three years I’ve known them? Who am I to judge, and why should I care?
I’m hoping that Baby Ren’s generation will know how to use all this technology a little bit better. While my wife and I have agreed that she will not have a smart device of her own until at least middle school, we know that it is almost impossible to keep her away from such things. Her friends are probably going to have them, or the school is going to require her to use it. (I certainly hope she inherits my love for writing by hand.) Perhaps she will know how to balance real-world connections with cybernetic ones.
Then again, who knows what crazy technological advances will come when she comes of age? There were no iPads just a few years ago. I remember not having internet access on my telephone as early as 2009. And I remember, fondly, setting up 802.11a WiFi at my tiny apartment on a DSL line that was super slow by today’s standards, but lightning fast when moving from dial-up to it. By the time Baby Ren is ten or twelve, there might be no waiting for any information download. There might even be implants that put everything into our heads right then and there.
Can you imagine? A world full of knowledge but seriously devoid of wisdom. I shudder to think of it, but that is where my job as a father will come in. It will be up to me to what take that information stream and teach Baby Ren how to parse it out, how to tell the wheat from the chaff. Trust me when I’ve told you that I’ve met some very knowledgeable and intelligent people who were paralyzed when asked to use any kind of creativity to solve a problem. So I’ll have to make sure that Baby Ren learns all those things that can’t quite be written into code.
I’m yet to see a how to article on being a good person.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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