Though still in its scientific infancy, relatively speaking much has been studied on the effect of digital technology on the brain. One such result suggests I keep my blog entries to be 700 words or less, which is why I must sum up the findings in the most general and expedient way possible:
Digital technology is changing the way we think and the very configuration of our brains.
Some believe these changes to be a good thing (utopian) while others believe it to be a very bad thing (dystopian). And if the history of human prediction tells us anything, the answer probably lies somewhere in between -as with each blessing a technology affords also comes with it a profound curse.
Those who have been brought up with digital technology are natives to that culture and mindset -they think digitally. Those like myself, who once marveled and stood in awe at the unbelievable technological achievement of the electronic game “Pong” and later, “Pac Man”-think analogically at most levels.
This is a problem. Many of us “older folk” (though could be as young as 27) are immigrants to this new digital culture and our analogue minds must adapt to this new world. And like any immigrant to a new land, some are much more willing and capable of acclimating to a new culture than others.
Like my dearly departed grandmother who believed our moon landings were staged somewhere in a high school gymnasium, unable to grasp the possibility of such technology, in order to survive, we immigrants MUST adapt and change the way we think. And you natives must understand the old world from which we come. We come in peace.
If you are still unclear as to who is a native or immigrant, perhaps this will help. Though generalizing is never completely accurate, I think you will get the idea:
A native takes pride in multi-tasking; an immigrant takes pride in a single task well done.
A native demands instant access; an immigrant believes waiting is part of the process.
A native often feels naked without their cell phone; an immigrant may feel a sense of relief.
A native often prefers impersonal modes of communication when it comes to dealing with difficult conversations; an immigrant believes physical presence is the only way to deal with difficult conversations.
A native has a great Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO); an immigrant does not fear what they do not know.
A native has an expectation of immediate information; an immigrant has to remind themselves that the yellow pages has gone the way of the dodo (Myspace?).
An immigrant has no problem changing plans in an instant; an immigrant believes in making plans and sticking to them.
So what often happens when two cultures collide? Often there is judgment on both sides because the way THEY were raised is, to them, the right way. These cultures are frequently in tension with each other.
So, immigrants, what is wrong with having a device on you 24/7 and constantly staying connected with the cyber world and carrying multiple conversations at once? No harm -just another way of doing life. And, you, natives, cut some slack on the immigrant who does not understand why your life now depends on a device that did not even exist 15 year ago.
My native friends, please remember that some of us believe in your culture and are trying to mightily to fit in and adopt to your devices, customs and norms because we believe it to be essential to our evolution. And at the same time, our minds were raised analogue and we may be a bit slow to catch up as the neural pathways in our brain are slow to carve out new territory. Be patient.
That said, even the most digitally progressive of we immigrants believe that there is some value in analogue old school. For example, doing one task at a time and doing it well with attention to detail is never a bad thing.
Yet, I understand my audience. And this analogue mind must keep my digital audience of 3. Whoops 764 words. Damn.