How many times have you heard a proud parent say their kid is brilliant because he/she knew how to use a tablet since age two? The next time you have to endure a similar situation, you might want to point out that a baby using a tablet is a success for the tablet makers, not the baby. It means that the level of simplification achieved by the tablet technology is such that it can be understood by babies.
While making technology more accessible to the elderly and people with special needs is a great thing for numerous reasons, doing the same for the kids is creating a generation riddled with Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety and a significant lack of imagination, patience and willpower. Yes, it helps them become dexterous in the handling of simple screen-touch interfaces and ludic technologies, but that’s about it. Kids don’t have a clue as to what is really going on beneath the hood. And a superficial familiarity with technology is in no way synonym with the technological or digital savviness younger generations are supposed to have. Previous generations, while not so fast at grasping digital interfaces, have more patience and discipline learning complicated things.
But, setting aside differences between age groups, people in general are capable of less things each time.They have access to more. But they can do less with it. This progressive atrophy is a direct result of the progressive simplification -or even elimination- of all the little activities that inadvertently kept our brains trained. From memorizing a phone number or a birthday, to finding an address, to doing math calculations without a calculator, to mentally editing a phrase before typing it in a typewriter, to countless other menial tasks (more on this here). And the new activities that are replacing the old ones in our daily lives aren’t as intellectually demanding. Simply put, we are running out of the things that were once used as “brain gym”.
SOCIAL NETWORKS DUMB YOU DOWN.
As they cater to the whims of an increasingly dumber and childish consumer, social networks are becoming increasingly cheezy and idiotizing mediums. What used to be about innovation, is nowadays just about herding people for the number. Doesn’t matter if it’s for better or for worse. If people are doing it, social networks move in that direction.
Youtube is planning on having a default vertical video screen just because “more people are watching videos on their smartphones and don’t even bother to tilt the screen for a better view”. Nevermind the fact that screens are horizontal because our eyes are set horizontally, thus providing a better viewing experience.
Instagram, an app that used to be a medium for posting interesting pictures now offers emojis and childish fonts for people to infantilize and soil their pictures with.
Predetermined filters for pictures promote homogenization of style. Intuitive swipe keyboards atrophy our typing skills. Whatsapp voice messages promote laziness. Micro content and video-kills-text philosophy promotes shallowness.
Social networks started as mediums to connect with people through different types of content, based on the different features of each platform. Nowadays, social networks have copied each other’s functions to the point where there is no sense in posting native content in each platform anymore, since they all have the same features and do exactly the same. Less variety, more homogenization.
The over customization of our whole online experience minimizes the chances for discovering anything new, different or unexpected (more on this here). The “If you liked this, here´s some similar content.” structure of most of the big players on the web kills creativity. Fuck similar content. I want different content. I want new things. Things I haven’t seen or considered before.
Social networks have the chance to ignite creativity on a global scale by mixing up things a bit. But they’re not likely to do it any time soon because, despite what they say, they hate risk. Instead of using their huge consumer base to popularize more mentally stimulating ways to share content and promote the discovery of new things, they follow the herd on their downward spiral towards stupidity.
“EXPRESS YOUR CREATIVITY WITH OUR NEW SMARTPHONE”
Every feature on a smartphone is designed to make things easier. A smartphone is the ultimate anti-gym. A brilliant instrument to soften your brain as well as your body, built and engineered to avoid you physical and mental efforts all throughout your day, where everything is just a touch away, with big colorful buttons, like a baby toy. It keeps you from having to remember appointments, phone numbers and birthdays, finding addresses, doing math calculations, typing things properly, arranging food deliveries, making reservations, interacting with people face to face, and countless other things, to the point where many features that were once reserved for disabled people, like voice commands, are now used by everybody.
Technology avoids us simple, repetitive, time consuming chores. Simple, repetitive, time consuming chores. Just like the ones we perform at the gym. But we go to the gym because we know those simple, repetitive and time consuming chores replace other extinct activities that once helped us to naturally keep our bodies in shape. What happened to our body is happening to our brain as well and we have arrived to the point we need to start doing some “brain gym”.
Spending time away from screens, doing math calculations by yourself, taking the time to type things properly, learning road directions beforehand instead of relying on GPS instructions, drawing by hand, listening to new music, learning new things, trying to write with your left hand (if you are right handed and vice versa if you´re not) and an almost infinite list of possible etceteras that anyone can do, provides us the mental stimulus we need to -at least partially- keep our thinking machines from turning into jelly.