Hey all you webby types reading our blog. Our latest Culture section features "Generation Text," a piece by Mark Bauerlein, a professor at Emory and author of the book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Tarcher/Penguin). Bauerlein claims that texting, Facebooking and all that are making our kids not only dumber, but less able to navigate the real world of human relationships.
In 1980, when an angry parent commanded, “Go to your room—you’re grounded!” the next few hours meant isolation for the teen. Today, the bedroom is not a private space. It’s a social hub. For many kids, the bedroom at midnight provides a rich social life that makes daytime face-to-face conversations seem tame and slow. Amid the pillows with laptop or BlackBerry, they chat with buddies in 11th grade and in another state. Photos fly back and forth while classmates sleep, revelations spill forth in tweets (“OMG, Billy just called Betty his ——”), and Facebook pages gain flashier graphics.
In this dynamic 24/7 network, teen activity accrues more and more significance. The events of the day carry greater weight as they are recorded and circulated. The temptation for teens to be self-absorbed and self-project, to consider the details of their lives eminently memorable and share-able, grows and grows. As they give in online, teenagers’ peer consciousness expands while their historical understanding, civic awareness and taste go dormant before they have even had much chance to develop.
This is the hallmark of what I have called the Dumbest Generation. These kids have just as much intelligence and ambition as any previous cohort, but they exercise them too much on one another. They are building youth culture into a ubiquitous universe, and as ever, youth culture is a drag on maturity. This time it has a whole new arsenal.
What do you think? Feel free to comment here, comment on the article page, send us a letter, or text me your answers
James Martin, SJ