Today’s WTF moment comes courtesy of the cover of this week’s New Yorker. The illustration is a little nudge that reminds us how difficult it is to savor the moment, given our umbilical ties to everything tech.
Appropriately titled “The Top of the World”, the illustration shows two pretty people, clearly a well-heeled couple all decked out in chi-chi skigear, at the crest of what looks to be an alpine ski slope. But instead of admiring the view, reveling in their good fortune for what looks like one killer vakay, or just getting into the Zen of it all — pick one — what are they doing?
You guessed it. He’s taking a photo, undoubtedly to post on his facebook page. She’s on her cell phone, presumably sharing the moment, rather than living it. The only thing missing is an iPhone or crackberry so they can text some BFFs before their downhill run.
Well, ugh. It would be kind of funny, but ain’t it the truth. And it makes me wonder: Is this uber-connection to our cyber-lives and cyber friends and god-knows-what-all-else keeping us from being fully present in our own here and now? From appreciating what we have — rather than jonesing for what we don’t? Does the fact that we have one foot in our own life and the other in about a hundred others make us continually wonder what we’re missing?
All those distractions! All those choices! No wonder we’re always angsting over that greener grass — because the other side of the fence is always up in our face.
And it may only get worse (or I guess, better, depending on your point of view), according to a story in Saturday’s New York Times. In a piece aptly titled “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by their 20s”, reporter Brad Stone ponders not only whether his two-year old daughter’s worldview will be shaped by the technologies she grows up with, but if her generation — and each succeeding one — will be totally different from those that preceded it:
Researchers are exploring this notion too. They theorize that the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development.
“People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “College students scratch their heads at what their high school siblings are doing, and they scratch their heads at their younger siblings. It has sped up generational differences.”
One difference that’s already apparent in older kids is the way they communicate, Stone writes:
Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and the author of the coming “Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn,” has also drawn this distinction between what he calls the Net Generation, born in the 1980s, and the iGeneration, born in the ’90s and this decade.
Now in their 20s, those in the Net Generation, according to Dr. Rosen, spend two hours a day talking on the phone and still use e-mail frequently. The iGeneration — conceivably their younger siblings — spends considerably more time texting than talking on the phone, pays less attention to television than the older group and tends to communicate more over instant-messenger networks.
Dr. Rosen said that the newest generations, unlike their older peers, will expect an instant response from everyone they communicate with, and won’t have the patience for anything less.
Or for taking the time to savor the view, or each other, from the top of the world. Which brings us back to the New Yorker cover. You gotta wonder: if you skied down a black diamond without texting any cyberpals about it — did it ever really happen?