Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"It seems that current technology is about quantity over quality and that, having communicated via text or email, the communication needs have been met. But I would say that they have been met only in the clumsiest, most expedient way. It's like substituting a greeting card for a heart-to-heart talk. Sure, we can have more frequent episodes of communication, but perhaps they are at the expense of deeper, more meaningful pieces of communication. I see this in my own life....I have contact with my friend via facebook and email, therefore I feel like I am up-to-date on what is going on in his world when I most certainly don't. Absent these expedient communication devices, I most likely would long ago have called him to find out how he is and would have spoken more in depth with him, strengthening our friendship rather than keeping it as surface as it is with, say, my bank teller."
Viewer's comment on www.ted.com 
"What I find weird is when you chat with someone online then you see them in person and barley say a word - something about that doesn't seem right." 
Alex, 19  
Both quotes from the book "CONNECTED: You've Upgraded the Technology - Now Upgrade the User" by Attitude. 

In this post I will repeatedly be quoting from this book, indicating it by *. At $15NZ, this recently published book is easy-to-read, humorous but has challenging comment. It is a must for  every household with children approaching teenagehood right through to adults who are involved with online-living. "Connected" is the fourth in a series by the Attitude group. I referred to another in the series, an excellent book on sex education for teenagers, in "What Sons Need from their Dad's" Week 19 Quote 19 and "What Daughters Need from their Mothers" Week 25 Quote 25
The ability to be able to action an idea immediately, send a detail now, 'speak' to hundreds in a minute, receive their replies the next minute, is just an ordinary everyday convenience that technology now supplies us with. To school and tertiary aged students, this technology is normal life. Along with teenagers, many adults too, freely admit to the usefulness/compulsion, in being in the habit of hourly checking their Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails, making sure they're not 'missing out' on something. 
The majority of children are growing up into a technology dominated life, which brings with it  both a positive and a negative side.
"I realised I needed to spend less time on Facebook when all I could think of when I was out was getting enough cool photos to upload that night" Jeremy, 16.*
"Mobile phones have become such an extension of us that people actually now have 'Nomophobia': a genuine fear of being without it. It is mainly found in teenagers (surprise surprise!)who consider not having a phone 'social death'. How can they text their mates, put updates on Twitter or check their Facebook while on the go?" *
"A young guy from Morrinsville, Waikato was getting a piercing and feeling a little nervous. he asked the guy doing the deed if he could get his phone - he wanted to hold it for comfort!" *
"DANGER! A 2006 survey by Virgin Mobile reported nearly 4 million people in the UK reported numbness or pain in thumbs, fingers or wrists from texting and related injuries!"*
"Zombie kids' are teenagers sleeping with their phones. That is how much they love them. One dad confiscated his daughter's phone just before she went to bed. He had it in his room and it was receiving messages all night! The last one was at 4 am. Again, maybe, just maybe this is getting a little obsessive. A 'technology holiday' - a complete break from your information and communication technology - can help you get control on your life. If that idea terrifies you then you definitely need one." *
"Virgin Mobile Canada survey found that nearly one third of young people spend more time on their mobile phones and surfing Facebook than with their partners." (www.virgin.com) *
The obsession difficulties, the inability to assess when enough time has been spent with technology, is not only evident in teenagers lives. Parents too are often 'glued' to the screen. If this is you, it could help to have a careful think through of the facts and statistics that prove that the parent who is an alcoholic, illegal drug offender of sex abuser, regularly passes on their negative habits to their children. Your high priority to technology is not just seen by your kids (regardless of age), but you also are presenting it to them as normal life.
"Addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or a practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming." *

Time allocation to technology is one issue, but another, possibly more serious question is, if our main form of communication is via technology, are we going to be affected as children growing up, or as adults, in how we relate relationally to each other?
"I read some status updates from a friend who was overseas having a blast. However, when I spoke to him when he got back, he told me that he had a terrible time and was really depressed. It's interesting how deceiving Facebook can be." - Dave, 24 *
I had a similar experience this week through texting someone close to me. I knew she was undergoing some medical tests and I asked about the results. It wasn't until 2 days of texting with her that I detected something was not right, and then found out her results were most unhappy ones.
"In person, face-to-face, you can see a lot more about who people are deep down. When they talk to you, you can get a lot of information from the way they dress, the way they present themselves, their body language, their tone of voice - you can tell a lot. It may add to what they say with  their words, or even contradict it. If you ask your friend, "How are you?" and they say "I'm fine, thanks!", but you notice they have tears in their eyes, dirt on their clothes and arrows in their back, the 'non-verbal cues' give you even more information than the words. Online all you get are words ... and maybe a corny emoticon or two." *
"A UCLA study indicated that up to 93% of effectiveness in communication is determined by non-verbal cues." (www.scribd.com) *
"As SMS shortcuts and chat room acronyms create a new textspeak, an entire generation may be losing out on vital conversational skills, such as non-verbal information gathering, not to mention the ability to listen instead of merely expressing something." ("Art of Conversation" Voyeur. March 2010.) *
Recently a friend told me that her daughter, in first year university, has hardly gone in to lectures and tutorials all year. She gets what she want of the course online from home.
The concern is that if we allow technology alone to be the primary medium through which  a student learns, or personal relations with others are conducted, we miss out on vital aspects of communication. Vital aspects such as  
        ~  perception and sensitivity of private emotions. The lose of these skills takes us closer to the robotic, machine-style human that some movies love to lead us to believe we are all heading to become.
        ~  conversational skills. As David Smiedt rightly says in his article at realviewtechnologies , conversation is not just the exchange of data, it involves a person's personality, gauging of impressions and so much more. He speaks of the growing trend in the US for 'conversation parties' where technology of all forms is banned.    Susan Greenfield, neuroscientist at Oxford University, spoke to the House of Lords on the ability of social networking to "reconfigure the way a child's brain works by 'infantilising' it, symptomatically eroding their attention span and sense of identity .... [Nicholas Carr, who I referred to in "Should the Screen be My Child's Play Pal?" Week 33 Quote 33, makes the same point] .... social networking was 'devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance' - two factors that are hallmarks of the best conversations." Berra makes the point that the average British teenagers uses 'an average limited linguistic range of just 800 words a day - significantly less than the 40,000 words a 16 year old should have at their command...... UK Government-appointed communication Champion, Jean Gross (said), 'Eight hundred words will not get you a job.'
      ~  listening abilities."....teaching children listening skills is one of the most important traits we as adult human beings can help (children to) develop ...... from academic and real world success to becoming a friend and experiencing true friendship." What is needed is that children actively in an intentional, engaging way, listen. The writer of "Little Ones Reading Resource", suggests the skill of proper listening, as they describe above, happens through children being regularly read to  - Teaching Children Listening through Reading.     Again, referring to my post "Should the Screen be My Child's Play Pal?", Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, developmental psychologist Patricia Greenfield and a Stanford University research group, comment on the damage to attention and concentration skills that over technology use, permanently gives to people of all ages.

" + Expression.
The human face is capable of hundreds of subtly different emotions. You would have to be incredibly clever with your words to communicate through a keyboard all the emotions we can express with our face and body language. Even if you use smiley faces.
A strange things happens to babies born blind. At first, they smile as much as sighted babies, which makes us smile back at them. But, because they can't see our smiles, they eventually stop smiling, and tend to have 'blanker' faces than sighted people. This could happen with people who have an extensive online life. They have rich emotions, but they don't get the visual feedback from the people they are interacting with. Interacting on a computer, we are blind to the feedback....unless you are using your webcam.
  + Touch.
Of course touch can be sexual, but it can also be sensitive, friendly, reassuring and very genuinely loving. So far, you can't do that over the net.
  + Pheromones!
Love is a wonderful thing - we like to hear their voice, see their image, feel their touch...and there is still enough animal in us humans to say that it can be incredibly moving to smell them. We all give off natural scents called pheromones which, even though they can't actually be identified as smells, trigger a sense of attraction in another person. My computer smells of plastic and spilt coffee. It does not attract me. [I first heard of Pheromones when researching for a post last year "What Do Daughters Need from their Dads" Week 16 Quote 16 - the effect of a biological father's pheromones on his daughter's entry into puberty, is incredibly fascinating.]
  + Being Human.
We are physical beings and social creatures. Computers might provide a wonderful 'extra' to normal relationships, and they might even be a reasonable substitute if we can't get together, but as humans, our best times are when we get together - enjoying each other's noise, smiles and company. Parties, sport, eating together and spending time together are always going to beat hanging around a website.
  + Being Confident.
Being with people teaches us how to relate. There are always going to be times when you have to take your body along to real physical situations - job interviews, for example. Computers might be great for shy people, but to actually overcome social shyness, you do need to mix with other people offline." *

Returning to the quote at the start, the more frequently used communication methods of texting and emails, are often communicating "at the expense of deeper, more meaningful pieces of communication."

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Do you and your kids need to even up the balance of time spent in physical person conversation with what's spent communicating through technology? Enjoy a chat with someone right now!


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