For two decades, technology seduced us, sleek devices and clever apps promising us a better, tech-enabled life. Tech would liberate, enlighten, and most of all, connect us. Now that dream has shattered. The fevered claims of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Wired magazine futurists now seem naïve, reckless. Tech-utopia is over.
Is “personalized learning” and ed tech headed for the same reckoning?
Mark Zuckerberg said he started Facebook because “you couldn’t find and connect with the people that you cared about, which as people is actually the most important thing. So that seems like a pretty big hole that needed to get filled.”
Zuckerberg sought connection, but the behemoth he created has inadvertently fostered division and hatred. Speech is coarsened, partisanship enflamed. Yet the damage is larger still. Facebook has eroded authentic connection and personal well-being. The vapid “like” button addicted users to jolts of affirmation. People the world over now exist in a state of “continuous partial attention,” chronically distracted and unable to focus. The capacity to build authentic connection is diminished, for “friends” are not friends.
Young people are perhaps most at risk from his invention. Teenagers now spend a staggering nine hours a day on average engaged with digital media—more time than spent sleeping or in school—and children from low-income families spend almost two hours more still. Forty-five percent of American teenagers now report that they are online “almost constantly.”
Steven F. Wilson is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ascend Learning. This post originally appeared on their website.