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Is Texting Bad for the Future of Democracy?

Don’t laugh.  A recent Nielsen study shows that Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 exchange, on average, 3,417 text messages a month.  That’s one every eight minutes during the waking day, and that’s just the average.  Many people send and receive even more texts than that.

A growing number of scientists and sociologists say this national addiction to cell phone technology is not just bad for those who’re doing it.  It’s also bad for the future of our society and our form of government. Read on.

via flickr/Tammy McGary

The ability to use our phones to always be connected, to fill every waking moment with entertainment or communication, may keep you from being bored, but it’s at the root of a deeper problem, says Yale Law Professor Stephen Carter.

In an article for Bloomberg, Carter says studies have found all sorts of ill effects of our national addiction to cell phones and texting, but the effect he’s most concerned about is the loss of independent thinking.

As texting crowds out other activities, it must inevitably crowd out inactivity — and there lies a danger.  By inactivity, he means doing nothing that occupies the mind: spending time in reflection, i.e., spending time actually thinking without outside interruptions.

Carter wrote that the great 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell was absolutely right when he wrote that unless we can find time for idle reflection — we can never truly think thoughts of our own.  (In other words, using our idle time to think creatively and constructively.)

The education of the young, increasingly built around the rapid-fire model of the standardized test, only enhances the model of thought in which speed is everything and reflection is for those left behind.

Texting, in other words, fits right into a world of sound-bite debates and a form of discourse where alternative thinking from outside one’s intellectual silo is dismissed.

It further impairs rational debate and the willingness of one to consider ideas with which they might initially disagree.”

via Text a Little Less and Think a Little More: Stephen L. Carter – Bloomberg.

Food for thought.  If you can find time to think about it, in between texting.

Photo by Aaron Savage
Photo by Aaron Savage
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