Are We ‘The Dumbest Generation’ Yet?
By Saga Rad
It is often said that IT is the largest villain in the drama of student procrastination. Accordingly, from time to time the heated debate springs up of whether using a computer actually is more rewarding than reading a book. One after the other, the reports are raining down with flailing study results and lowered IQ levels due to technology’s involvement in our studies. But is it true? From a couple of clicks we could acquire the kind of information that would take days to discover in a library.
The question is if our modern-time brains can handle the weight of the infinitely large cyberspace.
According to Mark Bauerlein, professor in English at Emory Univeristy, Virginia, our generation’s substantial involvement in cyber-culture is dulling our intellects, causing us to read less, which apparently allows him to title us as the the dumbest generation.
Nevertheless, people, be it Mark Bauerlein or your mother, who argue that computers don’t enhance the learning abilities are often met by exclaimed counter-arguments. Never has there been so much information available to a person who can navigate the web! Everything we would ever need to read is accessible on the internet; information on anything from the Binary system to how many lamp posts there are in Britain (approximately 8 million, according to www.answers.com). An IT device and some wifi are the only tools we’d need to learn the most about everything.
However, while all the information is available to anyone with a computer or a smartphone, it doesn’t always matter if we don’t visit pages, read articles and obtain information. IT also gives us the opportunity to stay completely sheltered in our little familiar spheres. These days we do not have to listen to the radio to discover new songs- because God forbid we hear something we don’t like. We don’t have to be exposed to something surpassing our usual genres in TV series. Sometimes even, we don’t feel the need to leave the house to socialise or meet new people.
We stay, on Facebook, keeping in contact with the friends we already have, listening to our favourite music, watching our favourite TV series. We exclaim all the great things that the internet can do for us, but paradoxically, the familiar has become so accessible that we rarely venture beyond what we already know. This diverts our attention from looking backwards or forwards. The past or the future is in many cases not as attractive as checking our feeds on Instagram.
The possibility to acquire knowledge has increased for the modern generation, however, it has also shown that we are learning less, and reading less.
(Keep reading, keep reading; we’ll have to prove them wrong.)
The problem is that no one seems to consider the decrease in reading as a problem. I was recently at a dinner where the people in the conversation were joking about not having read a single book in ten years. No one is feeling that it might become a problem. People take pride in being a literary expatriate, banned from the school libraries. Everything is on the Internet now, anyway, and while it is correct that the information is out there, it will make no difference to us if we’re just on Facebook chatting with our friends.
I will finish on a scientific note because don’t we all love when English students attempt to prove their lengthy arguments with science? Acquiring information through reading is not one of the primal instincts. It is a process we can evolve in our brains where the visual cells in the eye transform a picture to electrical impulses, which are sent on to a network of nerve cells. In their turn the nerve cells can translate the graphic squiggles on the paper into information we can understand. This process takes practice. If we don’t set out to assimilate the information, the part of the brain which processes our vocabulary becomes less active, and as a result our ability to focus decreases.
The issue is how self-centred we become as a result, choosing to spend so much time on our own social media page, in our own circles on Google+, and we live only in the “here and now” of our own lives. Surely acquiring information only relevant ourselves will have an impact on society in the future? After all, our generation is the future. And according to us, everything we need is out there on the internet, but do we still have the interest to reach for it? I’m not so sure. At least researching this article made me venture outside my comfort zone for a while, before I resume scrolling down my Facebook page.