Is technology creating a generation of social morons?

Are kids learning from this?
Are kids learning from this?

Last month’s IN09 Interactive Exchange conference highlighted the latest trends and developments in new media. (Last week’s mesh conference here at MaRS did much the same, focussing on the web.)

The lunch break on the second day featured anti-new-media rants, one of which focused on whether we’ll look back 20 years from now and wonder what the heck we were thinking giving our kids cell phones, text messaging, video games and online social networking instead of encouraging them to have actual face to face social interactions and get outside. Right after that, I sat in on some thought provoking presentations by Ontario companies doing innovative work in the interactive media. One in particular really set me to thinking, as it featured an online game designed to help kids develop better social skills. In light of the rant I had just witnessed, the irony was painful.

I’ve worked in the interactive space for almost 10 years and am profoundly aware of the impact the Internet and social media has had on society. I don’t own a cell phone but I do have a Facebook account and am online almost everyday. When it comes to new technologies, some might call me an ardent resistor as opposed to an early adopter, but I prefer to think of it as my strategy for maintaining a healthy balance between a virtual and a real life. There is a limit to how much I will let technology intrude into my real life and alter my day-to-day behaviour, because I want to be the one to decide what is a priority for me today, not my mobile device. I wonder if kids these days have the same choice.

So, what do you think? Has technology and social media improved our quality of life, or just added another layer of disconnect from real interpersonal interaction?

The answer has a huge impact on social media entrepreneurs and the innovations that they’re working on.