Driving through McDonald’s recently, my sense of guilt was replaced by another feeling: frustration. Not at my greasy cheeseburger, but at the teenage girl taking my money. I suppose I can live with her not looking me in the eye, or smiling, or even saying hello—it’s sad, but civility isn’t necessarily common these days. I was upset for another reason.
She was texting. Feverishly. Who? No idea. This girl was paid to talk to me and to handle my money, yet she was engrossed in her little plastic phone-–her thumb moving at impressive speed. She was totally disengaged from her surroundings.
But common. And by that I don’t necessarily mean young girls in take-out joints texting their friends when they should be working, I mean this: Young minds are disengaging from society, from life and from reality because they are plugged into gadgetry. It’s common, it’s pervasive, it’s normal.
We live in a gadget-dominated society, and young people are the vanguard of our cultural infatuation with technology. Studies show that young people today spend more time using media than they do any other single activity besides sleeping. They wake up to iPods blaring John Mayer and Miley Cyrus. Earphones dangle from their heads as they walk or bus to school. Before, during and after class, they instant message on laptops and chat or text with cell phones, the iPod still blaring. The frenzy intensifies when school finishes: After-school activities, be they sports, exercise, work, homework or socializing, are grafted with sustained rounds of text messaging, instant messaging, MySpace and Facebook updating and browsing, cell phone chatting, e-mail checking, virtual gaming, YouTube surfing, tv watching and Top 40 listening.
You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.
According to a 2008 Princeton-Brookings study, the “typical U.S. 8- to 18-year-old lives in a household equipped with three tv sets, three video players, three radios, three pdmps (for example, an iPod or other mp3 device), two video game consoles, and a personal computer.” And they use them all, oftentimes concurrently. The average American 8- to 18-year-old spends more than six hours a day using media; take into account media multitasking (using a television, the computer and texting concurrently, for example), which is at an all-time high for teens, and that figure grows to 8½ hours of media exposure a day!
Just ask parents and teachers. In Florida recently, a 16-year-old girl was arrested for allegedly spiking her mother’s food to trigger an allergic reaction after her mother confiscated her cell phone. Across the country teachers are frustrated by the pervasive infiltration of gadgets into the classroom. Students employ all kinds of stealth measures to hide in-class text messaging, instant messaging and phone conversations. At work many young people, some of them being cashiers at McDonald’s, can’t perform their duties without a high-speed direct connection to their gadgets.
Some people see more or less isolated physical and academic impacts of this trend. Others detect some basic mental impacts that this technology dependence is having on our young people. More than a few studies detail these negative impacts.
But few people see this unprecedented generational infatuation with technology as an epidemic. It’s Western society’s new addiction, a cultural vice akin to alcoholism, drug abuse and smoking!
I know that sounds extreme. But consider: Our young people’s addictive overuse of technology ravages the mind in the same manner alcoholism ravages the liver and smoking degenerates the lungs. Even some of the social impacts are also similar. Everyone knows alcoholism and drug abuse drive a wedge between the user and those around him, weakening relationships with family members and even society in general. In many cases, our young people’s perpetual connection to, craving of, and dependence on technology does the same thing.
Entire generations of young minds are being gutted by gadget addiction, yet few adults are speaking out about this travesty.
The minds of our young people today are being stolen, not by armed kidnappers but by flashy electronics. Misguided, undisciplined and constant use of technology is robbing young minds of intellectual curiosity and mental maturity. Young people are stripped of the ability and time to think, reason and judge. Their minds are being hijacked by what is really a new form of Stockholm Syndrome!
We now have a generation of young people whose lifestyles are held captive by iPods, cell phones, online games, instant messaging, text messaging, e-mail and social networking. This addiction diverts their minds from the present, from parents, from teachers, from the customer wanting to pay for his cheeseburger, from books, from homework, and from original and deep thought. Millions are perpetually tuned into electronic devices and are, to varying extents, disengaged from their surroundings.
When this happens, parents and siblings become annoyances, distractions from the screen. Work is a stumbling block to texting. Teachers are white noise behind in-class IM; homework is a fourth-tier priority squeezed in between MySpace posts. Everything substantive, meaningful and purposeful is marginalized, while unimportant, unnecessary, even harmful activities are given bountiful attention. Mental maturation is impeded because the young person lives life in the shallows, their addiction distracting them from ever strengthening their mind by exploring the mysteries and majesties of deep thought.
This is our world. Physical and mental downtime is despised. Solitude is feared. Independent thinking abhorred. Critical thinking has become a lost art.
Activities once used as opportunities for contemplation and self-analysis—walking alone to school, riding the school bus, taking a minute to lie quietly on the bed, driving, reading, working alone—are merely different environs in which to chat on the phone or text-message (often with a friend the person has been with all day at school), or listen to monotonous, mind-numbing pop music.
Not that there’s something inherently wrong with talking on a cell phone, texting or listening to music. But when these activities consume the mind and crowd out other substantive activities, they become weapons of mental destruction. Yes, they demand mental concentration and activity—but so much of it is reactionary and emotion-based. They require rapid user response, but generally little contemplation. Critical thinking and creative thought are crushed in the hands of immediacy. The mind is active but its action void of substance and leading nowhere. It’s the kind of mental activity that actually destroys quality thinking. In a word, shallow.
The end result: We have young generations plagued by a collective and individual lack of substance and depth, purpose and drive!
Strong minds and substantive, meaningful, purpose-driven lives, on the other hand, are built around certain constants that are based on deeper thought—strong human relationships, law, contemplation, self-analysis, reading, study, prayer, meditation. All of these require time and uninterrupted, original, imaginative thought!
What we fail to see is that our young people’s perpetual connection to and infatuation with gadgetry is destroying the greatest gift ever bestowed upon mankind, the human mind!
Few subjects on Earth are more misunderstood than the human mind. Physically, the human brain is not much different than the animal brain. Brains of elephants, whales and dolphins are even bigger than the human brain. Yet animals lack the ability to build impressive skyscrapers, design intricate computers, appreciate art or develop deep relationships. No animal—not even one with a brain bigger than ours—has ever sent another animal to the moon; designed, launched and landed a spaceship on Mars; or written a great piece of literature. Animals have a brain and instinct, but they don’t have the power to think, reason and judge. They lack mental understanding and intellect.
No one can deny that the human brain and mind is vastly superior to that of animals. But why? That’s a question no scientist or philosopher can answer. In fact, the human mind presents evolutionists with a real quandary! If humans gradually evolved from animals, how is it that the human mind is transcendentally different than the animal mind? If our intellectual and mental powers evolved, as scientists imply, why didn’t a single animal out of the millions of different species develop a mental capacity even close to the level of the human mind?
Surely we can admit that there is something profoundly unique and special about the human mind!
The spectacular intricacies of the human mind would take an entire book to discuss adequately. And that’s exactly what we want to give you, free of charge. It’s called The Incredible Human Potential, and you can request it here. If you study this book, you’ll come to see that the attack on the minds of our young people is actually an attack on the highest form of God’s creation! This book explains the magnificent difference between the human brain and the animal brain. It reveals the human mind for exactly what it is: God’s greatest gift to mankind. It will teach you how to take care of your mind, how to build and strengthen it, and, most importantly, how to add a spiritual dimension to your life that will truly expand your mind! •
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