What is Twitter doing to our brains?
That is the question posed in the May 22, 2011, issue of The New York Times Magazine. In his article “The Twitter Trap,” Bill Keller suggests that the price we pay for technology is a piece of ourselves.
Keller cites the book Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, who illustrates the price we pay for progress. For example, before printing was easily available, people remembered vast amounts of information. They could even recite full books from memory. Then along comes Gutenberg, and we remembered less and less.
Keller also cites what we have paid for other technologies, such as diminished math skills (the calculator), reduced navigational skills (GPS), and poor penmanship (the typewriter and computer).
He is concerned as to what Twitter and YouTube are doing to our attention spans. “The most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions,” he points out.
And, while acknowledging the potential value of social networks, he also sees that their shortcomings “…would not bother me awfully if I did not suspect that Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg’s device displaced remembering. The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet – complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy – are things that matter.”
I agree. Do you?