In the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker—no dummy herself—argues that they/we have.
She is particularly concerned about…
….rising generations who have spent a frightening percentage of their lives consuming data in a random world of tweets, blogs and food-fight commentators, for whom fame is a goal and reality a show? Once accustomed to such high-velocity infotainment, how does one develop tolerance for the harder reads and the deeper conversations?
Parker’s right: There’s a legitimate concern here. While social media may stimulate some kinds of intelligence, there’s no question but that it diminishes attention span, and I think it often seems to have a kind of neutering effect on critical thinking. (I envision all those people, wandering the streets of New York, staring into their phones, texting banalities to their friends. Might they once have been lost in…you know…thought?)
Also, time is finite, and all the time we spend texting and surfing and tweeting and, yes, blogging must come from somewhere; inevitably some of it comes from time we might once have spent reading and thinking and having actual conversations, rather than the exchange of pop culture trivia that now passes for discussion.
And speaking of pop culture—I remember, on seeing the Matrix for the first time a decade or so ago, thinking how powerfully relevant it was to modern life—the metaphor of all these people essentially sleepwalking through life, artificially fed and stimulated and wholly manipulated—and sometimes, even when they were aware of that, preferring to live in such a condition. Now, in a world of constant diversion, aren’t we even closer to living in the Matrix?