Posted by: dacalu | 6 August 2013

Social Disabilities

I’ve noticed a rather sizable generation gap with regard to social media.  Any number of bloggers and authors have pointed out the prevalence of social media in the lives of younger generations, particularly those under the age of 25.  What interests me most, though, is the tone of those writings.  It seems incredibly common for the older generation to worry that the youngsters are somehow disconnecting from reality.  They worry that they have become disabled by their dependence upon interactions with computers – or at least via computers.

What struck me today was the absence of the counter-narrative.  From the perspective of younger generations, oldsters lack the ability to communicate in a common and convenient way.  This may be viewed as more than a simple question of priorities and preferences.  It forms a particular kind of social disability.  How do we feel about someone who chooses to live without a phone?  Without a mailing address.  For most of us in Gen X and older, to not have these things is to be unreachable, even antisocial.  More viscerally, imagine a friend who is incapable or unwilling to shake hands… make eye-contact… show up at events…  Any of these people may be viewed as having a serious social disability.

Similarly, being unavailable on Facebook, by text, or cell phone is becoming anti-social in the modern environment.  I can’t say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Probably a bit of both.  What I can say is that it strikes me as surprisingly similar to the introduction of the telephone.  Technologies change.  Society changes with them.  Can we stop complaining about the pace of progress and spend our time thinking about how to make the most of it?

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Responses

  1. So true. I just got on Facebook and Academia.edu, and you won’t believe the number of emails I got from colleagues and students saying things like At last! and Long overdue! They want me to be connected.


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