Two of latest books I read dealt with technology and our relationship to it.
The first book I picked up off the library shelf solely based on it's cover...
It was shockingly good. The author is smart and thought-provoking - I felt like she wrote what I was trying to say in this post but much more eloquently and not quite so alarmist. Unlike me, the author lives most of her life online (I did not know about 90% of the internet culture references in the book). She is a successful journalist, who thanks to her time at Yahoo! News, knows all the ins-and-outs of clickbait... but even with all the internet has given to her (success, fame, money) she can still see that something about it is bristling. I would re-read paragraphs just because they were so beautifully written. And then have to re-re-read them out loud to Blake. And just because I can't get them out of my head - I will re-re-re-read them here.
My favorite quote from the whole book - found in the preface.
A large section of the book dealt with hyperlexia. A term she uses to describe what is happening to our culture as we risk traffic accidents in order to scroll Instagram at red lights. I loved all she had to say on this. Especially that we should never be deceived - we are not reading the internet, it is reading us. Once again she was calm and matter-of-fact about this - she never weighed in on if this was bad or good just presented both sides (the magic and the loss) and let you choose. I liked this paragraph on it:
And because I am a sucker for the visual arrangement of words on a page this resonated with me.
She had expansive sections of video, music, and design - but now I can see that all the quotes I chose were from her section on text. I guess my true love is the written word and worry that when it comes to books vs. Facebook - books are losing, which kind of breaks my heart. The fact is that we are buying books (digital and hard copy) that we will never read. She likens this to the American way of food overconsumption and I found it point on.
The last chapter brought in religion and I am still confused by it... I couldn't find the connection she was trying to make. She meanders through her personal non-beliefs but never gives any solid statement about her spirituality or exactly what this had to do with the rest of the book. Maybe she is like me and stinks at conclusions - I don't know. But this line came from one of her philosophy professors and I am trying to live by it...
The internet has upped the ante on making our public lives appear beautiful but sometimes I think that comes at a cost to our private lives. This professor puts it back in the right order and I like that.
The book stayed in the cute/clean/viral side of the internet - I wish she would have commented on the web in it's entirety because we all know killer guitar solos on YouTube aren't the only thing racking up pageviews. I would have found her thoughts on the darker side of online usage to be interesting and more comprehensive.
The second book was quite the opposite of the first. Everything about this cover screams alarmist and a lot in the book did too.
But I don't know I guess I am there - I see what portable electronics have done for my generation; it's only been a short five years and we are hopelessly lost to the lure of our smartphones. Now this tech in being put in front of a developing brain and I just don't see a positive outcome.
And the science is there - studies have been done - scholars in their respective fields are reporting. We are losing our ability to focus, we are desensitized to violence, we are sitting far more than any generation has ever sat before, and all this "connectivity" is making us feel more and more isolated.
Unlike the first author, I did not enjoy his writing style - he liked to toot his own horn and there was too much doom-and-gloom. But I found the research interesting. Like this part - I always wondered what it was about the internet that kept us coming back for more. Now I know.
And I found this part fascinating especially as they went on to talk about how nature, books, and even Mr. Rogers Neighborhood do not hold any power over children anymore. Unless there is a "brutal thrill" our brains don't register it which makes ordinary life seem just too ordinary... and why stay in that when you could be anything you want to be online.
And last one... I hate the tech in my kid's school classrooms. It distracts from actual learning. I can't tell you how many minutes I have spent watching the teachers try to connect to their Promethean Boards (think wall-sized iPads) to pull up the interactive word game when they could have just wrote the words on the blackboard and had the kids copy them 5 times. Kids don't need to be entertained to learn (at least not entertained with jumping frogs and digital toadstool words). And kids don't need to learn tech - it will come just like it came to us who went to class solely armed with pencil and paper. Let them learn how to sit and take notes and be bored... that will pay off way more in the future than any scrolling on screens.
And this book gave me my million dollar idea - open a non-tech school. They are all the rage in Silicon Valley (ironic?) and I just know they will continue to gain an appeal...
Or at least to me they will.
Anyways, read the first - skim the second (I only ended up reading 80 percent of it).
And recognize in all the magic of it there is some loss.