This cannot stand.

Another stat shows that 80 percent of babies and toddlers know how to use the internet.


Okay, actually, I find that statistic more puzzling than disastrous. How is “use the internet” defined? Learning to click on a link? Playing an Adobe Flash game? However you define it, being a toddler is a time for children to develop motor skills and language skills. Assuming that they can’t read, figuring out that clicking the button thingie when the pointer thingie will consistently cause such-and-such to happen strikes me as kind of useful. Granted, the spacial skills that come with playing with blocks are moreso, but are we really worried that kids aren’t playing with blocks?

Okay, setting that one sentence and my unreasonable response to it aside, let’s go back to the beginning:

  • Text messages sent per day in the U.S.: nearly 5 billion
  • Number of emails sent per second in the world: 2.8 million
  • Average professional/work related meetings attended per month: 61

Sounds positively ominous… or does it? The first statistical set is the United States, the second set is the world, and the third is… what? Not the world. I doubt it’s even a company. I assume it’s an individual, in which case that’s actually kind of horrifying for a different reason. Does the average person really go to almost three meetings a day? I guess since I’ve only rarely been in management, that sounds awfully high to me. But I guess while I attended only one or two a week, there are others who just go from meeting to meeting and so it balances out to that. And maybe they define meeting liberally (though not so liberally, I would assume, that any time you stop by a boss’s office, that counts).

So is this a rallying call for more meetings? Why settle something with the convenience of an email when you can disrupt everyone’s schedule and have them drop what they’re doing for more “face time”?

My response may be somewhat intemperate, but with the exception of the part about Blackberries during family time (which I agree can be problematic), I am having difficulty what I am supposed to be pulling from this article other than “Be scared” and/or “You may not realize it, but you feel isolated.”

Except… I don’t. At least not in any of the ways that the article mentions. I have historically worked in the IT sector. We are not exactly luddites when it comes to electronic communication. We’re also not known for being the most sociable people. But, if anything, the places I have worked have involved us spending too much time talking to one another face-to-face. Often just chewing the fat. It’s a product of the Cubicle Age. I’m an introvert, but even I start up conversations with the guy sitting next to me. The only time I really avoided facetime was when everyone around me spoke through heavily accented English that I had difficulty understanding. And the only times I was really anti-social to my coworkers involved heavily accented English or an office full of people that were twenty years older than me or the fundamentalist father of triplets. I mean, am I alone in this? Due to geek-cultural solidarity and employers too cheap to spring for separate offices?

And Facebook? For every friendship it has created problems with (I can think of maybe one), it’s reignited friendships with dozens of others. I went to college at the dawn of Instant Messaging. ICQ came around my second year. My best friend Clint and I barely talked that first year. The second year and beyond, he was coordinating to see me every time he came to town and I was taking trips out there to see him. And of course this doesn’t even touch on BBSes, which provided me more friends than high school ever did. I don’t mean cyberfriends. I mean people that I met. People that I am still in touch with. And, of course, it provided me a course-correcting social education that my schools did not. But this is all kind of beside the point. The point is that unless you live in Callie, Arapaho, or some place similarly small, the only way you’re not making friends from cyber-communication is if that’s what you want. And if it isn’t bolstering your friendships, you’re likely not doing it right.

Which is not to say that there aren’t pitfalls to avoid. And in fact, I may be in one of those pitfalls now. Spending too much time online and not enough time around town making local friends which I might be forced to do in an earlier era. But a lot of that is circumstantial. I had a number of ideas on ways to meet people, but they sort of fell apart. And most of the ideas that occur to me are ideas that involve making friends way out in Redstone. And really, I was lousy with meeting people before the Internet (and BBSes), so it’s not like I can blame it on the wire. You can call it a crutch, but my ankle is sort of sprained.

So yeah, on the part about being able to put the Blackberry away at the dinner table, I’m kind of sympathetic. But complaining about the Internet getting in the way of “real communication” is like complaining that bicycles are problematic because they don’t give you the same workout as running.

Category: Office, Server Room

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5 Responses to Wired in Isolation

  1. Mike Hunt says:

    Another stat shows that 80 percent of babies and toddlers know how to use the internet.

    This sounds soooo made up. Unless you are being VERY liberal with your terms, i.e. the baby is using the internet whenever his parents buy a baby book online, or download a song for the family to listen to.

  2. Kevin says:

    Unless they’re defining “toddler,” “know how,” and “use the internet” quite liberally, I just don’t see how this can be true. Few toddlers know the alphabet well enough to search for something, which is a requirement for finding anything remotely useful. I call bullsh*t. Do they provide any support for this statistic?

  3. trumwill says:

    I don’t disagree that the stat is dubious. I doubt it was made up, but I suspect it says something other than what the author suggests it says. “Look! They hit the button on the flash game. They’ve learned how to use the Internet!”

  4. Kirk says:

    Another stat shows that 80 percent of babies and toddlers know how to use the internet.

    They’re using E-trade.

  5. trumwill says:


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