Tech Savvy or Virtually Clueless?

A college girl confusedI’m totally confounded how leagues of my fellow classmates, college students, claim to be tech savvy, own a smart phone, and attest to being a technologically knowledgeable person. Yet, after closer inspection, even the “Digital Native” (a term originally coined by educator Marc Prensky), is totally inept with the technology he claims to be so intimate.

I know I might sound like an old geezer (even though I’m only 26) or a hater of technology (I just built my own dream computer), but hear me out. Most people today have become so dependent on “point and click” that they’ve lost or never developed any skills that require much thought, perseverance, or, what I affectionately like to refer to as, effort. It should not come as a surprise, then, that they’ve developed the same habits with technology.

Google, Page One

I was a teacher’s assistance a few semesters back, and it blew my mind not only how many students habitually chose the first few hits of Google, but also admitted it openly to the class at the beginning of their readings. I’ve been guilty of doing this myself, but not all the time; and never would I announce it to my whole class. What is even more astonishing is how many students considered skimming through the sites listed on the first page of their Google results as “a lot of work.” Please! What is our society coming to when our “educated” are refusing to educate themselves.Google Plus One

Things like Google and spellcheckers are great tools—but that’s just it, they are only tools. I think the increasing dependance on such ease-of-use tools has greatly improved efficiency, but at what cost? Things that have enabled us to do more, are now enablers of thinking and doing less.

Back in My Day…

Growing up, if I had a question, I couldn’t pop it into Google and have an answer. I’d have to ask my parents (not a message board), my friends (not Facebook), a doctor (not WebMD)… I can go on like this for hours. I’m not saying it was great or efficient. I’m not advocating we return to those dark ages. But, something can be said for the day where smart people were generally smart, and not posers using their Wikipedia app below the table.

This false sense of knowledge has begun to destabilize their ability—our ability—to understand, communicate, and learn. I’m not the only person to agree. There are people much smarter than me who also agree. I feel too lazy right now to Google the exact references (ironic, I know). But, I’ll ask my professor later today who routinely preaches on the subject. I know, shocking, someone communicating one-on-one.

‘Bubba’ and Technology

One example sums up my point brilliantly. I was in a business and economics class a few years back. Our first project was to create a fake product and market it. Speaking with my group, I offered to make a website. One guy in the group, who I will affectionately refer to as ‘Bubba’, piped up “Yeah, me too. I’m good at that Internet .” Great! Someone to help! Wrong.

Can't Connect to InternetAt the end of our group discussion, I asked to exchange emails. Bubba replied, “Uh, I don’t even know what my email address is.” the other guys made similar comments. But the clincher is the final comment by ‘Bubba’, “Yeah, I don’t even know how to check my email.” Really? Know how to make websites my rear end! The digital knuckle-dragger couldn’t even check his own email.

But, poor ole’ Bubba isn’t an isolated incident. People often make comments when I mention I don’t have a smartphone (I prefer stupid phones, to be honest.) Yet, time and time again, ask them how to do something beyond point and click or download a program (‘app’, goodness I hate that term) that will point and click for them and they immediately go silent. Point and click. Nothing more.

Electronic’s nightMare Problem

Without restating the reasons I’ve already discussed thoroughly, I’m fearful of our future. Our society has become so lazy because of technology. What will happen should we continue down this track? If we ourselves lose the ability to search for knowledge and learn, what would happen should technology be destroyed? EMP bombs are a scary thing in today’s modern society. If we store our all knowledge online, is there a possibility of a technology induced Dark Age where the human race forgets knowledge wiped from our hard drives?

For those who haven’t Googled it, an EMP bomb is an “Electromagnetic Pulse” weapon. EMP is the destroyer of technology. Theoretically, an EMP bomb could destroy our power grid and communication systems. Just imagine waking up one morning to no refrigerators, phones, or televisions. Some estimate that an EMP bomb would be far more devastating to Americans than a handful of nuclear warheads dropped on our largest cities.Power Lines

Why? Because Americans don’t know sustain themselves without technology. We’d literally starve to death due to lack of knowledge. Our technological infrastructure would be gone. That’s troubling since I know even with my “above average” knowledge of self-sustainability, I still couldn’t survive without help from technology.

Simple Solutions

Many problems can be solved by taking small steps.

Learning to live without your phone 24/7 is a great step. I often leave my phone in the car (charging) during class. I shouldn’t use it in there anyway. Instead of allowing auto-correct to clean up my spelling, I use it as a guide. I see a word misspelled and then, usually, I will rewrite the word instead of letting the spell checker do that.

Yes, spell checker has been scientifically proven to be hurting our ability to spell.

When I have to do research for class I use things like Wikipedia and Google only as starting points. Now, I search through online academic journals. Sure, it’s still digital and it takes more time, but it allows me to learn things that page one of Google won’t teach. Occasionally, I even checkout a book from the library and read through it. That always impresses professors to see a REAL book listed on my works cited page.

But then, all of these steps take work; something to which America is seemingly allergic.


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