I recently read The Digital Invasion by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd. I was driving home one night and listening to an interview on the radio where the author discussed the premise of his book. The authors, a father and daughter team, are a psychology professor and a Christian counselor, respectively. The book looks at the impact that technology is having on our relationships. I am a self-proclaimed social media addict and I felt like there was value in looking at how that is impacting my relationships.
One thing that the authors point out at the start of the book is that we are broken up into two different groups in regards to technology. There are Digital Natives - those born after the advent of digital technology and Digital Immigrants - those born before the advent of digital technology. The first few chapters instruct readers to critically look at their personal technology habits - texting and driving, checking notifications while spending one-on-one time with a family member or friend, impulses to play online games, and the need to post about every minute of our lives (I am SO guilty on that last one). Next the authors explain the different brain systems (pleasure, tranquility, memory, learning, attachment, spiritual) and how the overuse of technology is impacting each of these areas.
While the first three chapters were enlightening and set the stage for what was to come in the rest of the book. Once I hit chapter 4, the dog-earring began. Chapter 4 discusses the myth of multitasking. I have always prided myself on being able to multi-task. Being a mom and a teacher, it's probably one of the "skills" I utilize the most. It's awesome to be able to help with homework, answer emails, cook dinner, and listen to the TV at the same time. Sort of. The authors cite research done at Harvard and Stanford that show that when their brightest students were given either sequential task or multi-tasking projects, "they found that ALL the students' performance were reduced about one-third when multi-tasking. What is also notable about this study is that ALL students reported that they thought they were actually doing better when multi-tasking than when sequential tasking" (Hart, 81). Another interesting point in chapter 4 is the mention of multi-tasking and the "attention deficit trait". Multi-tasking may actually be a factor in the rise in ADHD diagnoses in youth today. Since youth who have access to digital technology around the clock are constantly jumping back and forth between games, texting, videos, and social media. They are doing all of this while working on homework and listening to music. The problem is that when the brain is asked to jump back and forth between stimuli without ever deeply focusing on a task, we train our brain NOT to focus and think deeply about something. The idea is that by allowing kids the access we are currently giving them to digital media, we are allowing them to wire their brains to be incapable of deep though and analysis. As a teacher, this is terrifying. Students NEED to be critical thinkers who are able to reflect and form their own opinions and beliefs.
In chapter 5, the focus shifts to the impact that social media and technology has on personal relationships. As Hart states,
"Technology can help us connect with extended family but it also disconnects us from our most intimate relationships. We turn to technology to for connections we can control, like texting, tweeting, emailing, and posting. These allow us to edit, delete, and retouch what we say and how we look. Real conversations are hard work, messy, challenging, unpredictable, and time consuming, but they are worth it."
disconnected people living in their own isolated worlds. Digital tech is an incredibly important part of our lives but we need to be aware of how it impacts our relationships and our brains. I would whole-heatedly recommend this book to parents and teachers alike. We are just starting to scratch the surface of the impact of digital technology and it is important that we are educated consumers.