In the recent years, developments in technology have dramatically changed the ways people live, work and communicate with each other. A huge variety of modern technologies have simplified the ways people keep in touch. We live in the digital age. One of the aspects of this age is described in Claudia Wallis’s essay “The Multitasking Generation”. She makes several claims about the effects of using so much technology on young people in her work. Based on my readings and experiences, I agree with certain claims but not with all of them.
One claim Wallis makes is that technology affects social interactions and family life. Young people appeared to be the most active users of the Internet. This generation cannot imagine their lives without it. Young people communicate with each other via Skype, instant messages, chats, forums, e-mail. They share information, music, photos, discuss movies and novels with their friends just sitting in front of their computers. Unfortunately, the development of technology reduces face-to-face interaction and causes bad quality of communication between people. Without a doubt, new technology has isolated us from the society and made us slaves of our machines. Living in one city, friends or relatives can more frequently see each other only on the screens of their monitors. People begin to forget evenings outside their houses, spending time with their friends or children. They just sit staring at the displays of various gadgets.
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Some people spend more and more time in front of their computers communicating with somebody they will hardly ever meet about the things they pretend to be interested in.
Some scientists describe such people as “onlineaholics”. Dr. Cash is one of the pioneers in treating people from Internet addiction disorder. Her patients suffer from depression and isolation; they lost their jobs and ruined their marriages, but they still cannot stop using the Internet. She and other therapists say there is “a growing number of teenagers and young adults as patients, who grew up spending hours on the computer, playing games and sending instant messages. These patients appear to have significant developmental problems, including attention deficit disorder and a lack of social skills” (Kershaw).
But some of the technologies really help people in their social interactions. It is easy to keep in touch with your family or friends with the help of modern technological developments. Families use modern technologies to support the relationships or even extend them. It is possible for a person in Paris to carry on conversations with their relatives or friends in London, Canberra and Brazil all at the same time. Thus, family members can always stay in contact; and, with the help of such technology as Skype, they can even see each other.
Some people feel difficulty when communicating in real life. Such barriers for communication as age, gender, social status and appearance lose their meaning in the Internet. Shy, lonely or disabled people can even meet a new friend or new love on dating websites or online forums. In addition, anonymity helps people to create better impressions about themselves. People who have difficulties in realizing themselves offline find a lot of opportunities for self-realization online. Ellen Lee says, “Like instant messaging and chat rooms before it, social networking has become a powerful way for people to communicate via the Web and another place for people to spend their time online” (Lee).
There are lots of popular social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and others. These sites unite people and make them feel connected to the world. The Internet brings the world to your door. Finding former classmates or old friends is not a problem nowadays. Moreover, social websites meet young people’s needs of communication and self-expression.
So, there is nothing wrong with spending time on the gadgets or the Internet; however, we need to spend more time offline too.
Another claim Wallis makes is that technologies affect the way young people learn, meaningthe quality of learning. In her essay, Wallis says, “In lecture halls with wireless Internet access--now more than 40% of college classrooms, according to the Campus Computing Project—the compulsion to multitask can get out of hand”(Wallis). While doing some educational tasks, young people usually do something else like listening to music, surfing the net, playing on-line games or just checking e-mail. The result of such multitasking is inattentiveness to the main task. While trying to save time, a person can miss some important information. AS a result, some universities are planning to block Internet access during lectures.
But modern technologies also have a positive impact on education. Generation M is usually good at finding and using information, analyzing visual data, etc. That is why using audio and video materials at the lecture helps to capture students’ attention. Thus, this aspect has both advantages and shortcomings because young people can be benefited from learning through technology. They have an opportunity to visit different educational courses or learn foreign languages online.
Wallis also claims that our brain cannot handle multitasking properly. Our brain cannot fully concentrate when we are multitasking. She says, “When people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them, errors go way up, and it takes far longer”(Wallis). The researcher suggests that the brain needs some quiet time to rest between the tasks.
Another problem of multitasking is constant interruption of the tasks. Nowadays lots of office jobs include not only answering phone calls, but looking through e-mails, instant messages, reading Web pages, etc. Thus, the jobs today are “interrupt driven” (Thompson). The problem is that being interrupted people forget about their main tasks and start doing others. Clive Thompson claims that “when someone is interrupted, it takes 25 minutes to cycle back to the original task” (Thompson).
But people have always been able to do perform several things simultaneously. According to Wallis, “mothers have done it since the hunter-gatherer era – picking berries while suckling an infant, stirring the pot with one eye on the toddler” (Wallis). We can combine driving a car and listening to music, knitting and watching TV. Moreover, some scientists claim that as a result of the digital revolution the younger generation’s brains can sort and analyze more and more information. So, in the nearest future, people will be better multitaskers than we are.
Claudia Wallis also suggests that the younger generation knows a lot about technology. In her essay she says, “every generation of teenagers embraces the freedoms and possibilities wrought by technology in ways that shock the elders” (Wallis). It is obvious that the youth is more progressive, faster and more efficient in using it. They use various programs for creating audio and video files, composing photo collages, making their own blogs. Technical prowess is one of the biggest advantages of young people, because one way or another, their future life, their jobs will be connected with technologies and informational environment.
To conclude, there are a few side effects of living in the technology world; some of them are negative, some of them are beneficial. And while we are welcome to enjoy electronic devices that make our life easier and happier, we must never forget that they can do harm. Without a doubt, modern technologies, as any innovation that can change social life, have got much criticism. Nevertheless, positive effects of the developments in technology prevail. Electronic communication is a new layer of social reality. But life online is not natural for a person. It must be a part of the offline life, not its substitute. The internet helps us to create and spread a modern cosmopolitan culture, to erase cultural borders between people. However, the youth should remember that the Internet will never substitute the feeling of intimacy people can give each other in real life.
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