A few days ago, I came across a reference to Twitter.com. I’d never heard of it so I went to check it out – turns out it’s a sort of online SMS/instant messenger service but instead of one-to-one, your thoughts go out one-to-many. A way, I guess, for people to feel a sense of connection to others, though I couldn’t quite understand why you’d want to do this when you could just talk to a real person.
(Of course, there was a time I didn’t understand SMS or blogging either!)
That same day, I read the latest issue of Time. Serendipitously, it contained a great article that mentioned Twitter, and this crazy, always-on, always-connected world that we now live in. Here’s an excerpt:
“Like any good pusher, services like Twitter don’t answer existing needs; they create new ones and then fill them. They come to us wrapped in the rhetoric of interpersonal connection, creating a sense that our loved ones, or at least liked or tolerated ones, are electronically present to us, however far away they may be. But I can’t help wondering if we’re underestimating the countervailing effect: the cost we’re paying in our disconnection from our immediate surroundings, in our dependence on a continuous flow of electronic attention to prop up our egos and, above all, in a rising inability to be alone with our thoughts – with that priceless stream of analog data that comes not from without but from within.” Lev Grossman, The Hyperconnected, Time 16 April 2007, p34-35
Incidentally, Lev Grossman is the author of a very engaging Time magazine blog – time.com/nerdworld
I’m with Grossman. It reminded me of something Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in last year’s National Day Rally speech:
“Now children are multi-tasking. At least they tell me they are multi-tasking. I watch mine, I am sure you watch yours too. Homework open, music, earphones, Internet chat, game. And I am told you are not only surfing but multi-surfing because if you surf one site it is boring, but if you have three or four at once any time you can just flick. Need any information in the world, just Google it. If I ask them what is an encyclopaedia, they will say “Google it”. So attention spans have gotten shorter, when you are bored just switch. It’s a different way of thinking, a different approach to life. How we get to know one another, how we establish trust and links with one another has changed.”
It will be a little while yet before the boys get to that stage. But there’s no doubt their childhood will be a far cry from mine. As a parent, I often wonder what’s the best way to help them navigate the electronic sea, how to make sure they don’t lose touch with that “priceless stream of analog data from within” as Grossman puts it, and yet not sound like a neo-Luddite. One thing is for sure – I need wisdom from Above!