24 February 2010

Young Adults Online, Part 1: "Distracted By Everything"?

From the film "Digital Nation"

Do you believe the internet has changed your life for the better?

Has it enabled you to you more productive, more connected to your community, better informed?

The makers of "Digital Nation," a film produced as part if the PBS series Frontline, think you just might be deluding yourself.

In "Distracted By Everything," the first section of the film, professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology express concern that their students' constant connection to "tech tools" isn't, as students assume, enriching their lives or improving their productivity, but eroding their ability to concentrate and keeping them from forming meaningful connections with peers.

Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who teaches at MIT whose work focuses on people's relationship to computer technology and social media, says that young adults "have done themselves a disservice by 'drinking the Kool-Aid' and believing that a multitasking learning environment will serve their best purposes. There really are important things," she says, that "you cannot think about unless it's still and you're only thinking about one thing."

The students, for their part, argue that because they routinely multitask---jumping from email to spreadsheet to text message to television and back again in an attempt work, relax and socialize all at once---they are good at it and suffer no ill effects.

Young adults (and others): whose side are you on? In your life, is technology a distraction or an asset?

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