We see it everywhere:Share
In a thoughtful article published in First Things, Patricia Snow writes about the effects on high school and college students of extended immersion in cell phones (and other devices). I want to take up her call: “Look at me!” She begins by describing the problem and its symptoms:
- Bored children sit in classrooms, almost incapable of staying focused to listen to the simplest instruction, sneaking peeks at their phones for something more interesting.
- Teenagers at family gatherings barely speak to one another, let alone to the adults; they sit alone in a corner with their earbuds in, lost in games or videos on their phones. Trying to break in with a simple “Hi” yields a grunt or irritable glance in return. And don’t expect any eye contact!
- Even in public places like the subway or the sidewalk of a city street, many people are lost in their devices, inwardly focused, barely noticing the humanity around them.
- I recently asked a priest personal director what he thought was the biggest difference between younger and older clergy. I expected him to say something about theological differences, but he surprised me by replying, “Younger clergy do not answer their phones. They just text.” It seems that real conversations, even if only by phone, are on the outs with a generation raised on electronic devices.
Inevitably, in some of our young people especially, we are reaping deficits in emotional intelligence and empathy; loneliness, but also fears of unrehearsed conversations and intimacy; difficulties forming attachments but also difficulties tolerating solitude and boredom. … The teachers tell … that their students don’t make eye contact or read body language, have trouble listening, and don’t seem interested in each other, all markers of autism spectrum disorder. … Students are so caught up in their phones, one teacher says, “they don’t know how to pay attention to class or to themselves or to another person or to look in each other’s eyes and see what is going on.” Another says uneasily, “It is as though they all have some signs of being on an Asperger’s spectrum …. [Yet] we are talking about a school wide problem.”