Are devices divisive? Using devices wisely in today’s digital world.

Photo Credit: Sizzo-grafy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sizzo-grafy via Compfight cc

We’ve all done it. We’re in a conversation with friends and someone says something we feel is slightly less than accurate and we pull out our phones to “fact check”. Google is at our fingertips and we have become a culture that requires immediate information. Sherry Turkle’s article, Stop Googling. Let’s Talk. explains the effects when we divide our attention. Even something as simple as having a screen on the table disrupts the flow of conversation.

Turkle states, “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.”  She explains we restrict ourselves from having meaningful conversations when we let our devices interfere. Simply having the device between you, even if not using it,  is enough to disrupt conversation. It lights up on the table and we naturally glance down. I have not heard of the “rule of three” before but its sad that it needs to exist Turkle explains the rule of three as follows:  “In a conversation among five or six people at dinner, you have to check that three people are paying attention — heads up — before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds, but with different people having their heads up at different times”.

People spend a lot of time on their devices. We keep in touch with friends by shooting texts back and fourth. Life gets busy and its easier than actually getting together. More commonly people opt to text than talk. Rather than picking up the phone people choose to text for many reasons. Some feel it is less of an interruption. It gives people time to think about their responses and respond at their leisure.  We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Text Messaging by Jeffrey Kluger expresses concern for our youth because they are  no longer developing the skills necessary to initiate and maintain a conversation. They also don’t get the practice to interpret non-verbal cues. Some youth shared that conversations make them uncomfortable because they simply don’t know how to communicate face-to-face.

Photo Credit: Pauls-Pictures via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pauls-Pictures via Compfight cc

We commonly hear the phrase lately, “together, yet alone”. So frequently while out you see people on their phones; couples in restaurants that barely speak; Individuals that can barely put their phones down to pay for groceries. The photo on the left shows a mother and daughter out spending “quality time” together shopping, while glued to their personal devices. However, I wonder who took this picture? Did it have a purpose? or could these ladies victims of online shaming? These ladies may have had a great device-free day together and for one minute, mom may be making arrangements for transportation while her daughter returns a quick text. It could quickly be posted online and others will quickly form judgments with no background knowledge at all. You may have come across the post about the girls taking selfies at a game . The article, What you need to know about those selfie girls demonstrates the importance of viewing what we see online critically because things aren’t always what they seem.

Recently a story was featured on Global News, that highlighted an Instagram account that was created called “passenger shaming” where photos were posted of people doing undesirable behaviours on airplanes such as trimming toe nails, treating warts etc. The photos appear to be taken without the others knowledge. As of today #passengershaming has over 4000 posts. While I don’t endorse any of the behaviours posted on the account I am almost as disgusted at the people who posted them.  If the poster was so disturbed by the behavior, politely asking the person to stop would have been more helpful than posting it online. It seems like a cry for “likes”.

We really need to think about what we post online! What is the purpose? We need to teach our students about carefully selecting what they post but also need to model this ourselves. Jennifer Stewart Mitchell shared an excellent YouTube video created by Common Sense Media called oversharing. Think before you post peeps… no one cares what you had for breakfast.


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