Monday, November 23, 2009

The Attention Deficit Generation

Technology is providing people with new ways to be neurotic. I see them everywhere, young people checking their email on IPhones, twittering, engaged in banal conversations on their cell phones, IPods glued to their ears, a generation addicted to insulating themselves from the world with technology. They can't seem to go a minute without distraction or entertainment. All the gaps have to be filled with music, conversation, and computer activity. As a Chronicle article told us the other day, it's mostly people under 35 who are addicted.

Of course they are doing this while driving---and while riding bikes, by the way---thus creating a new safety hazard for everyone who uses our streets. But they also do it while on dates, after sex, and even when they are on vacation! I knew something new and goofy was happening last year, when I saw young people talking on cell phones on the four corners of the McAllister/Divisadero intersection:

Harvard's Ratey, author of the new book "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," said he fears today's tech-savvy generation is evolving away from the "genetic roots" of humankind, which used to have time for deep contemplation about complex problems without "being bombarded from stimuli from the outside. It's a challenge for many kids just to sit silently for a few minutes without moving around, looking for some kind of stimulation," he said. "We need that ability to center ourselves."

The blizzard of furious comments I got on this blog after Judge Busch ruled against the city on the Bicycle Plan was symptomatic of this distracted, post-literate generation. Few of the pro-bike commenters knew anything about the litigation or the Bicycle Plan itself, even though most relevant documents were---and still are---available online. Actually reading a document and thinking about it was evidently too much to ask of the Attention Deficit Generation.

Note too that the Divisadero Farmers' Market is now booking bands at the event, since shoppers supposedly need to be entertained while they shop: "more than just fruit & veggies!" as the North Panhandle News tells us.