In the first section of Digital Divide, the one essay that stood out to me was “Your brain is evolving right now”, by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan. While I feel that they made a variety of arguments, the one that struck me most was this idea of an “artificial sense of intimacy” (p. 92) and a “new culture of communication” (p. 95) that exist because we interact with other people online and through text messaging.
In “techno-brain burnout”, Small and Vorgan suggest that we derive our self-worth from these interactions, and furthermore, that they detract from our real-life relationships because our habit of multi-tasking with relationships does not compare to one-on-one communication. I do think they make a valid point, that the lack of face-to-face interactions could be detrimental to our social skills and our relationships to others, but I also feel that they are being a bit over dramatic. They are looking at the minority in this situation. The average person may spend a good deal of time on facebook and their phones, sending text messages and writing comments, but that’s not where their relationships end. They still get up, go outside, and socialize with others in person. In fact, they tend to prefer that, and in many instances, the friends that they communicate with via the web are long-distance ones. Using that logic, it’s entirely possible that digital methods, like facebook and skype, have allowed them to maintain long-distance friendships more effectively than other methods, like writing. Overall, I don’t think this argument is completely valid.
In “the new, improved brain”, the authors speak in a somewhat condescending tone about relationships through digital media. In one instance, they say “no need for ten phone calls or, heaven forbid, actually waiting to talk in person the next day in school”, in reference to teenagers obtaining news via instant messaging (p. 94). I think their weakness here is to automatically assume that there is a fundamental problem with this form of communication, rather than acknowledging that it reflects the progression of technology. I remember before instant messaging was as popular as it is today, and teenagers shared such dramas over conference call. In fact, the relationships people can have over skype are arguably closer to traditional face-to-face methods than other, less recent options like the telephone.
I understand Small and Vorgen’s fears about the progression of technology and human interaction. However, I also believe that in this instance, they are making grand, overarching assumptions about modern methods of socializing. While there are potential problems with this “digital divide”, I felt as though certain parts of their essay focused too much on the negative impact on human interaction and relationships.