Thursday, February 16, 2012

What is happening to my brain?

First of all, quick plug: if you haven't heard, the album release date is set.  It's going to be June 1, 2012 at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh. Moving on...
I thought this was funny until I remembered the eTrade commercials.
I've been thinking a lot lately about technology and social networks' effects on our psychology.  I recently got into a brief, friendly debate with someone on Twitter (I can't believe I just said that... three weeks ago I still hardly knew what Twitter was) about whether smart phones stifle creativity and imagination.  I was making the devil's advocate case that maybe the technology we have can actually enhance our creativity by freeing us up from spending, for instance, three hours looking something up at a library that we can now just wikipedia on our iphone in ten seconds.  I think we agreed that the problem lies in the addictive nature of things like Twitter and Facebook, and the fact that smart phones mean we're constantly connected.  The user argued the need for silence and I agreed.

When I'm reading or writing a song or playing piano or exercising, I usually have the discipline to turn my phone off.  But I got my first cell phone when I was 17, so I had already made it past adolescence with most of those habits intact.  Today's kids get their first phones way earlier-- this article says the average age is 8.  I know my younger cousins are no exceptions, and that's exactly who I was thinking about when my mom forwarded me an article about my cousin Austin Glass, who is in 6th grade.  Apparently Austin showed up at a school board meeting and submitted a proposal he'd come up with to increase revenue in his school district.  Once again, Austin is in 6th grade.  Here's an excerpt from the article on

Glass proposed HATLO, or the Hempfield Alumni Tradition Lives On, which he hopes will save classes, field trips, athletics and other programs from the fiscal chopping block.

"Graduates must recognize the need to reinvest in the school district that equipped them for success," he wrote in a handout to school directors. "We have top-notch programs and educators here at Hempfield and they cannot be maintained in this economy unless alumni give back."

He suggested the district set up an online network of alumni -- social media such as Facebook and Twitter are free, he noted, unlike costly bulk mailings -- and "politely ask these graduates for donations to help close the gap."

Cousin or not, that's pretty impressive conscientiousness, creativity, and imagination for a kid that age.  It's not the same kind of creativity I personally engage in, but in a way he's creating art.  He's using his mind and thinking outside of the box that the school board was stuck in.  He is not being a passive technological stimulus-addict.

Let me end with a survey I posted on Facebook a few nights ago when I couldn't sleep:

Everyone seems to be plugged in to the social media right now, and I'm definitely not excluding myself. What do you think it's doing to us psychologically? It's not a new question, but I haven't thought about it in awhile (I've been too busy figuring out twitter to think about these things). Anyone out there also on Facebook on a Friday night can vote: 
Is social media... 
A. Good 
B. Bad 
C. Just kind of weird 
D. Other (specify)

You can vote for more than one

My stance is much the same as most issues: all things in moderation.  Let's make creative and productive use of all this technology to improve our lives, reach more people, and change the world, but let's all turn off our iPhones once in awhile.  It can be good, it can be bad, and it's definitely weird. I vote A, B, and C.  Feel free to leave a comment with your vote.


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