'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
ATTENTION SPAN IS, UM…WHAT?
Last month I read an interesting news article. The headline was: “Modern technology—including violent video games—is changing the way our brains work.”
Professor Susan Greenfield, a British neuroscientist, claims that the human brain is under threat from the modern world. Greenfield explains that our brains constantly change and develop throughout our lives, and these changes in the human brain are “substantially shaped by what we do to it and by the experience of daily life.”
Greenfield cites video games as a particularly ominous influence: “Already, it’s pretty clear that the screen-based, two dimensional world that so many teenagers—and a growing number of adults—choose to inhabit is producing changes in behavior. Attention spans are shorter, personal communication skills are reduced, and there’s a marked reduction in the ability to think abstractly.”
Oh please, professor, give me a break. Everybody worries nowadays about the negative influence of computers, video games, cell phones, iPods, etc. Blah, blah, blah. Whine, whine, whine. Lighten up, people. It’s no big deal. I mean, how can a person’s communication skills and attention span actually be reduced by some little electronic—
Oops, there’s my cell phone. Hang on a minute. Hello? Hey dude! Whatcha doin’? No way! Really? Niiiice! Yup. Later.
OK, where was I? Oh yeah, communication skills and attention spans. It just strikes me as ludicrous to think that modern technology can cause problems—
Hey, a new email just arrived. Ooh, it’s marked urgent. Let’s take a look. Hmm, some new political jokes. The weather forecast today is 71 and hazy—just like McCain! And tonight the forecast is 62 and gloomy—just like Hillary! Fun-nee!
Anyway, like I was saying, communication skills and attention spans have not been reduced at all. And any so-called neuroscientist who says so, is, um, um…hey, didja see that big fight during the Red Sox game last week? Cool. I watched the video clips on YouTube for like three hours straight. Next thing I knew it was two in the morning, and I had to be at work early the next day, so I said, man, you better get to sleep, but then there was this video of a goat at a petting zoo who bit this fat woman on the butt, and it was so funny! So then I noticed the sun was coming up, and I’m like, dude, you’re gonna have to mainline coffee to get through this day.
But getting back to attention spans, or whatever. It’s not that people are no longer able to concentrate, it’s just that we’ve developed a new and useful skill: multi-tasking. Those of us who have embraced technology can now do a dozen things at the same time. This can be a major asset—
Omigod! Look at that guy! I was channel-surfing while typing, and I just clicked on a motocross race, or something, and this one guy did a total face-plant from about 50 feet in the air, and then just as he staggered to his feet another bike plowed him! Whoa, that’s gonna leave a scar!
Um, anyway, if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the human brain is very resilient. I mean, look at what my fellow baby boomers and I did to our brains during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and today we’re fine. So the young kids today who have electronic devices blaring in their ears and flashing in their faces 24/7 also will be just fine.
In conclusion, I’d like to say—
Hey, another new email. Oh man, look at that goofy picture of Obama! I love Photoshop. It’s like so, um, um…
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