Digital Collars

Originally published on Dusty World in April, 2014:

Wise Europeans have begun enacting legislation to protect people from the relentless onslaught of digital noise.  Coincidentally, I’ve recently had a number people lamenting the digital ties that bind them.  An article on how students can’t hold a conversation any more and a moody French art film on digital alienation followed:

LOST MEMORIES (French, English Subtitles) from Francois Ferracci on Vimeo.

This past weekend I had an elearning student send an email Friday afternoon and then shrilly demand, Monday morning, a response.  I haven’t heard back from them yet, but I did point out they were getting a detailed response to their email the next school day.  Ironically, that student has never logged in on a weekend and has frequently been weeks late handing in work, but perhaps we aren’t all held to the same standards of immediate access.  That people can yank on that digital leash and demand our attention regardless of their own competence is an irritation.

Another teacher mentioned how his smartphone is spoiling his hunting.  He used to get himself up into his hide and then settle down for some meditative and quiet hours communing with nature.  The last couple of times, deep in the woods, he’s been so busy keeping up with texts and social media that he forgot to commune with anything.  

The same teacher also mentioned that he has called students out for answering texts while in the middle of a working machine shop.  They often tell him that it’s their parents texting them.  He takes the phone and texts the parents saying that the student is busy and should be paying attention to what is happening (it is a machine shop).  It seems parental expectations have piggybacked on invasive digital practices.

One of the reasons I enjoy me motorbike so much is that I can’t be doing anything else while I’m on it, though apparently others have found a way.  The operation of the bike occupies my mind and body completely, it’s very therapeutic living completely in the moment like that.  That the information technology around us constantly pulls us out of the present is a problem we need to resolve.  Maybe the French aren’t out to lunch in trying to protect people from this expectation of being permanently leashed to our information stream.

From the frustration of sitting behind a car at a green light because the driver is distracted (thought they aren’t supposed to be), to helicopter parents being constantly in touch with students, perhaps it’s time for educators to start charting a more socially responsible approach to digital intrusion.

Note:  In case you think it ends there, here is another sad ode to social media, it’s becoming a meme!