04 Jun 2012

Interactively Dumber

By Greeley Dawson

Today, there is a common perception that we are growing dumber as technology grows smarter. If you happened to catch the movie Idiocracy, you probably either laughed or cried the whole way through. Email has taken over personal communication so much these days that kids barely know how to speak to adults or pick up the phone for a normal conversation. Yes, we are all aware that there is plenty wrong with this picture, but is it really as bad as they say?

It wasn’t long ago that the most common form of casual, long-distance communication was the hand-written letter, or “snail-mail,” as we call it today. It took decades after the telephone gained widespread use that long-distance calls became easy and affordable. Pen pals of days past may have persisted if it weren’t for the rise of the Internet.

Today, most of us only use postal services for shipping physical packages, sending a birthday card here and there and maybe even paying bills, which is on its way to being universally replaced by credit card and online bill pay processing. Clearly, the way we use mail has changed considerably over the past few hundred years, and these same global changes in communication have also affected the way we write.

In some ways, we have taken a step back in time in our modern world. Writing once again plays a major role in our constantly connected daily activities. What was once a laborious process of carefully shaping the strokes of letters is now as easy as tapping some buttons and hitting “send.” It used to be common to save cherished love letters as personalized tokens of affection. The more modern forms of communication are however perceived by many as cheap and disposable. What are you supposed to do… print, fold, and stash your special messages away in your “love box”?

If the days of the cherished pen pals represent an ideal of deep and personal connections, perhaps our modern world can be characterized by those shallower, yet numerous connections to people from all around the globe, many of which we will never meet face-to-face. Our fleeting Internet contacts just don’t quite fit the term “pen,” and only if we are lucky (or unlucky in certain cases) do we consider them a “pal.”

It is a fact that we have lost a major sense of physical human interaction these days, and the future of technology is making it look like this trend might continue to grow. BUT, kids today are writing, and possibly even reading, more now than ever. Social media, blogs, message boards, wikis, chat rooms, online newspapers, books, magazines and everything in between – these are all channels with a staggering amount of content. The quality of that content might sometimes be questionable, but the fact that the good stuff is abundant is not.

In addition to that, what other day and age would we have had access to communicate with the best and brightest in our fields? Today we can just shoot them an email or join a teleconference to hear them speak live from another country. The digital age turns weeks, or months, into an instant. It fully opens the world of connectivity.

It’s a fact that we all experience a considerable amount of information-overload these days. But at SeeMeDesign, we are on the other side of the argument from the movie Idiocracy. People are growing smarter side-by-side with technology, but we might summarize it as interactively-dumber-but-intellectually smarter, as in human interactively dumber, that is… But way-way smarter.

One thing we certainly cannot argue about these days is that kids are surely learning to read and write.

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