The Generational Trap

Bill Keller's [negative take](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/magazine/the-twitter-trap.html) on the cognitive effects of social media is an interesting read. It's probable that our reliance on technology to remember things is causing changes in our brains. Perhaps the Internet *is* turning our minds to mush and creating a legion of drooling automatons. Or, perhaps it's freeing our brains to work on new challenges. It's too early to pass judgment but continued study is a very good thing.

His article is an expression of a fear that plagues every generation. Technology forces change and change is scary. His perspective is especially interesting as the executive editor of a large media organization being forced through a rapid change by the very technology in question. How's the paywall doing anyways?

Using Twitter, you get what you give. It all depends who you follow and who you choose to engage with. I aggressively [curate my attention](/2011/marketing/curate-your-attention/) and find tremendous value in the people that I choose to [trust with my attention](http://www.jamesshelley.net/2011/05/is-it-worth-the-interruption/). If Mr. Keller would actually use[^1] Twitter, he might feel a bit more like [Pat Dryburgh](http://patdryburgh.com/):

>I am hesitant to use terms like “real” or “real world” friends when speaking about friends I know offline. I have had real, heart to heart conversations with some great people that I count as good friends even though I’ve never met them in person. To me, that is just as real as someone I’ve shaken hands with. [^2]

I agree with Pat. Also, what about the millions of couples connected through online dating? This is arguably a social network that is capable of producing the highest level of human, intimate relationships. There seems to be a lot of "value" generated there.

Mr. Keller sees users of social networks as mindless drones that sit in front of a computer regurgitating links and tweaking out every time a notification flashes by. There's no denying that being so connected requires significant discipline. Turn off notifications, only check your streams/feeds/inbox when you choose to. These tools are tremendously powerful and need to be carefully managed. If anything, this discipline forces critical thinking, which is a good thing in my books.

Every new technology or invention requires change. Just like we've been doing for a really long time, we'll either adapt or disappear. So far our record is pretty good.

[^1]: His [tweets](http://twitter.com/#!/nytkeller) are few and far between.
[^2]: From Ian Hines excellent [Intrvws](http://intrv.ws/post/1279739250/pat-dryburgh) with lots of great people.