There is always a tendency for an older generation to wax nostalgic about the past. While I am not old, what I have observed in recent years about our nation's youth and their use of smart phones in particular – facilitating their constant access to social media – is frightening. While the elder generations have run the country into the ground with poor politics, governance, economics and morals, I see little hope that the younger generations will someday pull us out of this nosedive to our own self-destruction. In fact, things are certain to get much worse, hastening the "fall of Rome," much less individual lives, in short order. This is true for a number of reasons.
First, the use of smart phones has become an addiction not too much different from excessive drug and alcohol usage. Indeed, there are several published studies and articles that confirm this, some even suggesting that the same portions of the human brain are affected with this addiction – which manifests itself as obsessive neurotic behavior. As a result, our nation's youth are constantly and obsessively texting, emailing, sending, receiving and replying to messages on social media sites – also frequently posting or sending suggestive pictures of themselves to entice or lure new boyfriends and girlfriends, or just to flirt and tease – communicating all day long on almost a minute-by-minute basis.
As a result of the distraction caused by this obsessive behavior, our nation's youth are growing up largely unable to concentrate on the tasks before them. In short, they have developed the attention span of a gnat, which has negatively affected their performance at school, work and otherwise. It is not only performance that is affected, but their relationships with teachers, work supervisors and the like who see our nation's youth up close and personal. [See "Cellphone addiction," Forbes.com, "Addicted to phones? Cell phone use becoming a major problem for some, expert says," University of Florida News, and "Smartphone addiction of the rise, says new study," Mother Nature News.]
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Second, the use of the written text message, email or Facebook message on smart phones has significantly reduced the need to communicate orally. Ironically, smart phones, which are in essence intended to be just that – phones – are rarely used by our nation's youth for verbal communication. As a result, oral language skills, the ability to express oneself in actual speech, have suffered greatly. This helps explain the younger generation's use of the word "like" nearly before every noun, adjective or adverb. Our youth have become the "like" generation (as we were the "um" generation but to a much lesser extent). Couple this with the widespread use of profanity in their daily speech and you have a generation whose communication, if verbally at all, is frequently vulgar and highly offensive. This is "like" very bad for society as a whole, much less relationships!
Third, smart phones and their easy access to social media are destroying personal relationships on an epidemic basis. I have been told by many friends that their spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends have become so hooked to the devices that they are kept on night stands. Morning or night, their paramours become wedded to the devices – texting, emailing and sending Facebook messages just before bed, during the night and during the early morning right in front of their partners, or by not too inconspicuously taking the smart phones to the bathroom or "behind closed doors" to use them in secret. This behavior, and the clandestine use of smart phones during the day, can create the impression with the "significant other," sometimes for good reason, that their companion is either having an affair with someone else or is in the process of using social media to try to start one. In effect, the inability and/or lack of desire to spend uninterrupted time with the "one you're with," your partner, can cause break-ups – furthering personal insecurities, instability in relationships and other societal problems. In effect, its like having a third person(s) always in the room with you – and one that may not have your "best interests" at heart.
Fourth, the use of smart phones is so addictive that many younger people (and the older generation is, while less so, guilty as well), use the devices while driving their cars. The result, particularly with regard to text messaging, is far more auto accidents and accidental deaths of pedestrians in particular – as the user is distracted, preoccupied and not aware of what is in or crossing the road in front of him. The situation is so bad – given the car wrecks, injuries and deaths that have resulted – that many states have passed legislation banning the use of handheld smart phones while driving. But this has hardly deterred our nation's youth, who think without rational basis that a tragedy will never befall them, as they are often too young and haven't lived long enough to appreciate the consequences of killing a young child on a bike, for instance.
You probably thought that Larry Klayman was finally writing a column devoid of politics. Sorry to disappoint! As you may know, President Barack Hussein Obama has openly admitted that he, too, is addicted to his Blackberry and had one made that is secure from wiretapping or interception by adversaries, foreign or domestic. While this may help explain the president's poor performance in office – apparently he is distracted and unable to concentrate, like the nation's youth – at least his smart phone insures his privacy. Not so for the rest of us; the government and other entities can easily and do tap into your communications.
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So the next time you pick up your smart phone, think not only how it is destroying our younger generation, and many persons who are part of the older ones, but also how your privacy is no longer protected from government and other sources of intrusion. As a result of its prolific use by terrorist organizations and groups, the FBI and the intelligence agencies now regularly and scrupulously monitor postings and messages on Facebook, for example, not to mention foreign hackers and intruders.
Perhaps, with this awareness our nation's youth will be scared into communicating the old-fashioned way – verbally – and "like" improve the chances that our culture and personal relationships will again "like" advance, and not continue to "like" degenerate.