Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Pre-Screen Era

  I grew up in the final years of the Pre-Screen Era; the blissful days of my innocent youth playing outside and living a carefree and (mostly) screen-free life. This term was recently introduced to me to describe my generation and its increasing dependence on technology: specifically, the computer screen. Today, this also includes the TV screen and phone screen for young kids. We demand instant gratification from our global devices, creating a malleable virtual world that surpasses real time, thus making the physical world and its standard of time feel slow and therefore obsolete. Impatience with the real world time is frustrating and ridiculous - waiting (for anything) becomes a waste of time. We may be virtually ahead of time and more socially connected, but our connections are more virtual than physical. I'm sure there are inconsistencies or mistakes in this post, but it's just a fun way for me to examine the situation at hand. 
  Now for a flashback...When I look back on my basic use of screens in the past, the first device that comes to mind is the television. I used to watch Disney movies like it was my job, but it was an essential part of my childhood, so I look back on that fondly. Anyone else my age can relate with the sense of nostalgia. The same can be said for the evolving video games we grew up with. Sega Genesis, Gameboy, Nintendo 64, Xbox, Wii. With each new console came an increase of time commitment and involvement, creating the sense that time is not being wasted, but spent playing your favorite game. We play because we want to master the game and be virtually rewarded for our accomplishments. 
  Thank goodness that cell phones were primitive tools when I was a pre-teen. I can remember a time when none of my friends had cell phones. Life was more relaxed and less distracting. I remember calling my friend Shane's house (something that even now is rare) and asking one of his parents if he was home and able to play. There were always two possible outcomes: if the answer was 'No,' I could always call another friend, or I could ask where to find him, then take the initiative to hop on some childhood vehicle (skateboard, bike, etc) and venture out on my own to find him. Even if I traveled all around town to search with no result, at least I was getting some exercise and fresh air. Plus there was always the possibility of making new plans along the way by stopping by other friends' houses. If the answer was 'Yes,' I remembered there always being some sense of excitement that I was lucky enough to catch them with free time. Looking back on either instance, maybe spending time with friends then meant more on a personal level. It's difficult to explain, but friendships were built and established through more personal interaction than screen-to-screen social media contact like Facebook and texting. That example may not seem much different than today. The key difference for me is the fact that at that age it was more difficult to follow my friends' whereabouts. House phone was the only way to go (in terms of technology) for a period of time. 
  I think the younger generations (including my own) are becoming content with a lack of personal contact with friends. If a friend can't be reached by a cell phone call, a text is the next best means of contact. No answer? Text or call a friend, try Facebook. No one is available? Then just stay at home and watch TV. It's excessive, but it's true in many cases.  When friends are not available, screens are always there. The initiative to locate friends is well, initiated more commonly through social media rather than social interaction. If you go out of the house to find your friends but return empty handed, it's considered a waste of time. Even after going out with friends, at the end of the night we go back to the computer and chat with them or others online - I'm certainly guilty of it. 
  Wait a minute, why did you go off on this tangent? Well, yesterday I watched a Youtube video on reforming public education to compensate for the rising technologically distracted generations. This video made me think about my own behavior while using various forms of technology (or screens); more specifically, how frequently I use them and the extent of my dependence on them. I try to use Facebook often so I can keep in touch with friends and family back home, but I'm letting it distract me from doing more in the present time. Hence, trying to be virtually social is making me less personally social. I don't watch TV at all here or use my phone as often as I do back home, so the computer is my main media source. 
  So what? I hope that after you read my little article that you will watch the entirety of the videos below and reflect on your media usage and dependence, among other topics discussed. I think these videos have the potential to be influential to many people, and I hope they make you think about thinking. Maybe I'll revisit this page and add to it, but until then I hope you find these videos as interesting as they are entertaining! The first video is a presentation on reforming public education. The second video is a presentation on how perspectives of time affect our work and health. Before we know it our perceptions of virtual and physical time will be so warped that workers will be payed with reality checks! 

RSA - Changing Educational Paradigms

RSA - The Secret Powers of Time

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