Age of Information Overload

I hate starting anything with this line but here goes.

Do you remember when?

I remember a time when the sun came up you were told to be outside all day. You were also reminded to have your butt inside before the sun went down or you were going to bed hungry because you would miss dinner. I remember when breakfast was before school or 8 on the weekends. Lunch was at noon, and dinner was promptly served at 6pm. I remember when a single television was in the house broadcasting three (major network) channels, one public channel and a handful of fuzzy channels. I also remember the house having one telephone, it was in the middle of the kitchen, it hung from the wall and it had a dial. No private sneaky conversations, you better have manners because everyone heard what you were saying. I remember when a stereo was a gigantic piece of furniture. It had am/fm and a phonograph. If I was lucky enough to be left alone that sucker was blaring AC/DC! (insert rebel smile here) And smile you did, not because of the music per say, but because you knew your parents hated you touching this status symbol, and it was so much louder than your mono phonograph. (remember those?) I remember when we played outside in the fields, running through horse crap, cow poop and mud. We drank water from a garden hose and ate fruit straight off the trees if we needed a snack! I remember when you scuffed your knee or shredded your elbow you sucked it up and hid it from mom. Because nothing was worse than having your mom call you a cry baby in front of your friends. That same theory also worked for scuffles with your brothers, sisters or your friends. Yeah I remember when…..

Why am I talking like an old man who just finished walking up a hill both ways in 6 feet of snow barefoot with shorts on because that’s all my parents could afford? Well let me tell you….

Sitting at work today I received a call on my cell phone, it was the middle child. He was highly agitated at the oldest. As I was in the process of diffusing the situation my oldest calls me on the other line (can I say other line with a cell phone?) As I take his call putting the middle child on hold I think to myself, aren’t they in the same room? Before I can ask this question they both begin arguing with each other! A full-blown screaming match, and I am getting it all live through the latest, greatest Apple technology! I calmly handled the situation, sent them on their merry little ways and proceeded to place the phone back into my pocket. Disaster averted! Something my parents couldn’t have done in their day without the use of technology. Yeah! Technology…

Then it dawns on me, technology may be screwing things up in the parenting department as well! Sure we have the ability to know where are kids are at any given time. (Just call them) Sure I have the ability to handle domestic disputes over the phone keeping piece and harmony in the family nucleus. But what I ‘m really doing is disconnecting them from reality! In the “Real” world they need to have skills to handle arguments and disagreements with poise, and control. In the “Real” world they can’t just call their mommy or daddy to handle the situation for them. In the “Real” world you can’t just start ignoring someone by staring at your phone in a trance, like Ghandi is speaking to you through Facetime bringing wisdom and harmony to your universe.

So what is a parent to do? Well I did what any calm, realistic, patient, educated parent would do. I opened up the browser on my phone and began plugging in key words, searching for the answers to my questions on parenting all through the ease of my cell phone or “compuphone” as I prefer to call it. This search of course takes 15 minutes out of my otherwise productive day and before I log off I make sure to check my tweets, my blog, Facebook, the New York times, ESPN, and last but certainly not least my e-mail accounts. It’s then and only then I realize its not technology that’s the problem, its me….

I am on information overload! It’s such a double-edged sword too. I like being able to obtain all the information I need at the touch of a button. Lost? Ask my GPS. Need information ask Google, Firefox, or Ask Jeeves. Want to play video games? Angry Birds and Poker at your finger tips sir! Want to purchase something on the spot? Ebay and Amazon have app’s for that! Need to talk to someone but just don’t feel like the burden of actually having to speak to them? Text baby text, text as fast as your oversized, pudgy little fingers can fly across the virtual keyboard! But something has to give. Sanity must reign supreme at some point. There has to be a tipping point on the scales of social anxiety. In my ability to prioritize and utilize the boundless amounts of information that bombard my pea sized brain everyday!

The reality; I miss being able to go someplace without the urge to “check my computaphone”. I wonder what life will be like in 25 years when technology has surpassed our own ability to process information. I miss walking out the door of our house and traveling through my day without the “need” to check my computaphone every couple of minutes! What happened to conversation, what happened to research, what happened to wanting to know something as opposed to needing to know something. What happened to self exploration, finding things on your own and learning how to process that information. What happened to trial and error. We no longer have trial and error in our lives. Want to know how to do something, look it up on YouTube. It’s there! I mean in hindsight, I guess all those things are still there, but are we saturating ourselves so fast and at such a young age that we may be doing a dis-service to ourselves and our children? Is our ability to absorb and process the information diminishing? Are the things we are seeing, not only as adults but as kids scaring or de-sensitizing us to the point of callousness?

Our children can no longer play outside all day or they are considered “latchkey” kids “troublemakers”. So they stay inside either playing video games ( a completely different topic of disgust I will tackle later) or stuck in front of the computer wandering aimlessly through the web unsupervised. Our knowledge of the creepy boogie man that lurks around every corner has us protecting them 24-7 and in some regards, rightfully so. Our children are bombarded with sensory overload, watching the most inappropriate of things, whether or not you are there, because if you havent purchased them the unlimited data plan, they damn well know a friend who has it! Kids today can’t handle even the smallest of confrontations. They don’t know how! Texting has taken the place of talking. The power of the spoken word is lost. The power of the unspoken or written word is open to translation. Leaving many children with their underdeveloped youth/teenage minds wondering the true meaning in a persons last text. It means bullying is no longer confrontational person/person. It can now be done at anytime day or night. Remember the bully from your school as a child. Nothing made you feel better than the moment you went to class or loaded onto the bus and went home. Whew! Dont have to deal with that jerk till tomorrow. Not anymore, that same jackwagon armed with a computer or cell phone can torment you until you feel cornered, outnumbered and alone. No kid should ever feel that way.

So what is the answer? I don’t think all this glorious technology should disappear. I do miss the days of old, where one had a moment without knowing what was going on in every facet of our lives. I do think technology can be used for good. It does help with research and finishing homework, learning new cultures and expanding our minds, taking our imaginations to places we never dreamed possible. I do believe we need to monitor our children better. This I am entitled mentality that many of our children carry around because we as parents don’t know how to set boundaries and limits needs to end. We as parents need to also get off the cell phone, step away from the computer and engage our children more! Have a time during the evening where you all talk together as a family. Implement a “cell free” zone in your house. For us its the dinner table. No cell phones at the dinner table. Now don’t get me wrong, I am just as guilty as the next guy. I hear my cell phone beep and I am the first to “draw” like a gun fighter at the OK corral! I am just hoping my kids can say I remember when and actually remember, not have it tied to some great new gadget they purchased or received.

My point being, I am afraid one day technology will actually think for us, or out think us, we will no longer have control, and its at that point the Terminators will win. Where is John Connor when you need him…

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One thought on “Age of Information Overload

  1. I agree. This reminds me of the incident a few months back when my 13 yr old daughter managed to post on Facebook using her phone whilst sitting in class at school (where was the teacher?!) – the status she posted said something like ‘This technology lesson is sooooo boring’. She completely failed to see the irony in that.

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