Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dear Young People, Look Up From Your Phones

Dear Telegraph. Why shouldn't I be vexed? (It's British. They
wouldn't stoop to the word "upset.")
The essay by the 16-year-old British girl was upsetting. No, it was more than that; it was as annoying as that obnoxious guy who uses a semi-colon in the right place.
The essay, that appeared in the London Telegraph, was entitled simply, “Dear old people: why should I turn off my phone?”
Excuse me?
Well, if you weren’t too busy taking selfies in the bathroom mirror (please close the lid) I’d tell you why. While you’re at it, get off my lawn. Wait she’s British. Get out of my garden.
Geez, I sound old.
"Dear old people" author Sally Parker in a
selfie. Stop making fun of me, Sally.
“I often hear,” the girl, Sally Parker, wrote, “that my generation is absorbed in our phones and unaware of what is going on in the world. These kinds of opinions come from, unsurprisingly, people aged 45 and above – that is, the people who were not born into the world of the Internet and are used to a life without it.”
OK, Sally, I’m with you so far. We old farts are out of touch. I get that. But do you really need to take pictures of everything? No one cares what you had for lunch. And really, are you going to watch that video of the rock concert you attended, or would you remember it better if you’d just watched it?
I don’t know. Let’s ask science.
Psychology professor Maryanne Garry from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand said in an NPR interview that seeing the world through a smartphone makes people pay less attention to what’s happening around them.
"I think that the problem is that people are giving away being in the moment," she said. "They've got a thousand photos and then they just dump the photos somewhere and don't really look at them very much."
Linda Henkel, a psychologist at Fairfield University in Connecticut, agrees. She discovered what she calls the Photo-Taking Impairment Effect.
"The objects that they had taken photos of – they actually remembered fewer of them and remembered fewer details about those objects…rather than if they had just looked at them,” she told NPR.
Then there’s the Internet.
“Another myth this pre-Internet generation has come up with,” Parker wrote, “is that we are just mindlessly scrolling on our phones. When you see a teenager with a friend, one on their phone and not talking to the other, you have no idea what they are doing. The one on their phone could be looking up an article they read on the Conservative party conference.”
Or they could just be playing Candy Crush.
Parker defends her generation’s use of the Internet on their phones because they use it for research. Problem is, they probably aren’t learning anything.
Hint: Not me, ever.
Adrian F. Ward, a researcher at the University of Colorado and Matthew Fisher of Yale University discovered in different studies that most people using the Internet to answer questions (59 percent of those studied) were only in it for an answer, not knowledge. Fisher found that students became overly confident of their understanding of a subject just because they’d looked it up on Google.
"In that Internet mindset, you think you know things," Fisher said. “People are more inclined to remember where the information is stored than the information itself.”
Although I am in Sally Parker’s “aged 45 and above” category, I do understand one thing. This world is one massive solar flare away from losing all our communication satellites. If that happens, I might just read a book, or take a walk. And if I take a walk, I’ll try not to step on anyone younger than me who’s curled into the fetal position because their phone doesn’t work.

Jason’s parody survival guide, “How to Kill Monsters Using Common Household Items,” is available as an e-book at amazon.com.

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