Since this period of discovery and creativity started, we have changed. It’s not all due to our plugged-in existence, and I’m not trying to state that it is, but the omnipresent tech is the single biggest change in our world. During this era (I am breaking the rules and generalizing, but I’ll take a slap for it if you feel the need), we have become increasingly narcissistic. We are less aware of the physical world we live in. No matter how many Facebook friends we have, we are more isolated, less intuitive, and exist in a smaller space. We have less empathy, less sense of community, and we anger much more quickly. We are also far more likely to let that anger be expressed through violence. We attack first and consider repercussions later. In general, people aren’t nice any more.
That bothers me. But what bother me more is this: We live in an age where information and knowledge is readily available to nearly everyone, there at a click, tap, or voice command. Studies say that we’re smarter than ever. I simply don’t see it. Despite the availability and ease of access, my daily interactions show me a society that is less informed than ever. They mostly have very vague and ephemeral ideas about what is going on in the world, despite the facts above. That’s somewhat frightening.
The real thing to be afraid of, though, is that it seems they just don’t care. Sure, the data is there, the knowledge is free for the taking, but too many people just can’t be bothered. It takes an effort to find it, and we have no patience for anything that isn’t delivered to us, unasked for and sponsored by our favorite department store. We’ve become a society of the ten second attention span and the flashy distraction. We are force-fed things all day, every day, and it’s so insidious that we don’t even notice. If we’re worried about Justin Bieber’s pot plane, we don’t have time to even care about a vote on the debt ceiling. If our attention is consumed with an athletic competition, we can’t be bothered to realize that the NSA promised to discontinue spying on foreign nationals in their home countries…but didn’t say a word about citizens within our own borders.
Yes, this concerns me. It bothers me that we can’t pick out the things that really matter any more. I say that with the perceived smug air of superiority that an addict has the first day out of rehab, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I can’t change it. I don’t know if anyone can, unless it’s one mind changing at a time. It can’t be dictated. But it needs to happen, or everyone is going to wake up one morning and wonder where it all went wrong.
I don’t want to witness that.