‘The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein asserts that social media and youth culture undercut the skills necessary to be a global citizen when he writes: “We need a steady stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise political leaders, dedicated journalists and demanding teachers. Judges and muckrakers, scholars and critics and artists. We have the best schools to train them, but social and private environments have eroded.” Do you agree with this assessment or not?’
That was a question posed to me today by a high school student working on a college essay. It’s from a book called The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30). I can see why he doesn’t like Twitter. He’d have a hard time tweeting that title.
Seriously though, it was difficult trying to answer this question through the glass. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know all of the ideas behind it. I find the statement above to be pretty extreme. I do know that Bauerlein argues that reading habits have slipped, along with general knowledge, which I would believe. The conversation that I had with the student ended up being about the effects of digital technology on him and his friends.
I have been happily surprised to get emails from teenagers telling me that they are concerned about how their generation views communication, but they are quick to point out that they feel like they are in the minority. This is the group of people that I find most interesting to hear from because they are our future and they have grown up in a purely digital age.
The student that visited me told me that nothing in high school is official until it’s posted on facebook. He also said that he finds it difficult to communicate with others through text messaging because they can easily be misunderstood without hearing the tone in someone’s voice. However, most of his friends think there’s nothing wrong with it. He also expressed that his friends profiles are not representative of who they are. The same goes for his profile. It’s a persona to sell themselves to others.
I got an email today from a 16-year-old girl that had a lot of the same concerns. She likes her privacy, but feels like she is the only one. She thinks it’s strange to have pictures out there of herself that she can’t control. The thing she finds most frustrating with facebook and any sort of virtual communication is that she can sit in front of a screen and catch up with so many peoples lives without ever talking or seeing anyone. She feels more connected to words rather then people. She recently deleted her facebook account because of these concerns.
However, there are many more youth that choose to live in public rather then in private.