Thursday, December 03, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Unsocial Media

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

It's probably one of the newest concerns for parent right now about our kids. Beyond their grades and drugs and sex and just the general overall cruddy economic conditions parents are worried about kids and electronic gadgets. Specifically how much time our kids spend on their electronic gadgets. Turns out its not just teens who may be affected but all of us who are spending more and more time connected to our computers, our smart phones and other electronics.

A study back in 2006 has been pointed to as saying that all this time connected to our virtual lives might be limiting the diversity of our real lives. We were, according to that study, becoming more isolated from our fellow human beings because we weren't coming up for air as often as we had ten years before. The negative effects on society in general were profound because we were exposed to fewer outside points of view and that resulted in a narrowing of our opinions since we had fewer people to be involved in our lives.

The good news is that it may not be as bad as all that. The Pew Institute's Internet Personal Networks and Community survey says that the exact opposite may be taking place. People who spend a significant portion of their lives connected digitally actually have larger networks of people with whom they discuss serious issues. And what is referred to as their "core network" the people they consider most important in their lives can be up to twenty five percent larger than average. So increased use of technology actually increases the diversity of thought we hear. In an area like ours, which is not diverse in many ways, being plugged in can be an excellent way to stay in touch with more people and ideas.

Looking back at the original study is instructive as well. The internet was pointed to merely as one possible factor in the isolation of a certain portion of the American public. Other factors included longer commuting distances, more people living alone and lower voluntary group memberships. The interesting thing to note is that isolation is pretty much the only result of those factors unlike the technology. Probably the best thing that can arise from our plugged in state is connecting with friends and arranging to meet them somewhere face to face. The Pew study shows that's still the favorite method of connecting with the most important people in our lives.

Funny enough, that's what the teens have been doing all along.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

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