As the days turn into weeks during this new reality of the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ll admit I’ve participated in my fair share of mindless activities. I’m doing my part to “flatten the curve” while also working from home and trying to homeschool a 16-year old and a college freshman (I’m not qualified!). I’ve sucked down some whipped topping from the can. I’ve become catatonic watching daily news conferences. And while I haven’t watched Tiger King YET on Netflix, it’s next after finishing Love is Blind.
Although I don’t have much to show for this time, I feel like I’ve found some clarity in the midst of the chaos. Now that the daily “to do list” in my busy, American life seems largely irrelevant, I am listening more to my mind, and to my heart, and actually… (wait for it)…THINKING. In fact, the abundant gift of all this extra time alone with my thoughts has forced me to reflect on life in a pretty poignant way. My guess is that I’m not alone.
Over the last few days, I’ve reflected on my disdain for research papers even though I was once really good at them. My son has been working on his first major college research paper and OUCH… revisiting MLA format and navigating those waters with him has been a real downer during this quarantine.
This time has also been incredibly insightful because his paper is titled “The Effects of Technology on Learning and the Brain.” For years, I’ve been suspect that our society has essentially invited the “fox into the hen house” when we welcomed the magic of smart tech with open arms. We hardly paused. It can be so intoxicating! But now that the buzz has worn off, what’s left? Is our current state of dependence irreversible?
Ever since the invasion of the internet and its amazing devices, I’ve been confronted with my own lazy brain and a growing fatigue for reading books or processing complex information. And I don’t think it’s because I’m aging. My 80-year old Dad discovered a pure joy for reading books later in life, and guess what (?) – he doesn’t have OR want a smartphone.
So before I lose your attention (because let’s be honest, I’m competing with cat videos and karaoke in cars), I encourage you to read up and form your own opinions (see links to some of the source material for my son’s paper below). When we no longer have to “shelter in place,” what will we have learned? Despite the very real and tragic losses of this pandemic, maybe we’ll also walk away with something gained – a much needed reality check.
While we can’t go back in time and throw the baby out, I want to believe there’s still time to refresh the bathwater. Maybe we’ll finally turn something off and tune back in.
Is Google Making Us Stupid? by: Nicholas Carr
(And to think this is over 10 years old – telling and a little scary.)
Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction by: Matt Richtel
How Classroom Technology is Holding Students Back by: Natalie Wexler