Deliberate Disconnection


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I don't know that I have the writing space or rhetorical skills to justify blatant hypocrisy. Luckily, the Internet is currently down at my apartment (seriously), so I'll try to preach a practice that I, myself will have trouble obeying. I'm actually more compelled to write this because it's an important issue to my mother. Oops.

See, I'm on my computer a lot. And despite being a repeat (cough, three-year) offender, I am going to argue that you should seriously limit your laptop and cell phone use while in class. It's an easy message to preach, but for some, it's a hard habit to break.

And I volunteer myself as exhibit A.

In general, I like being or appearing to be up to speed on whatever could come up in a conversation. As a sportswriter, a large chunk of my time is spent predominantly on various sports websites and I never want to get caught with a "Did you hear that ... ?" question to which I cannot provide at least a one-sentence answer.

And I believe that this is, for the most part, a good thing. I like that an easily accessible resource can keep us satiated and allow us to learn and spread information. It's fun to talk about matters of general interest because conversation presents learning opportunities.

Or maybe that's just me. I like to talk.

But I must follow with a quintessential question illuminated by our parents' generation: At what point does technology become too much?

Remember when I said I was on my computer a lot? That's in class, too. As a history major, I like that I can read my notes in Cambria font on notebook layout as opposed to in handwriting that was deemed chronically bad by all of my elementary school teachers. In Anthro 1, I found it very difficult to spell Australopithecus, much less write it down multiple times in one lecture, so I took my laptop to class.

Now, I diligently recorded notes of that lecture and have done the same for several wonderful history courses, but the laptop is a machine used entirely at the user's discretion. In classes that did not garner my best attention, the laptop existed as one massive escape for an unnecessarily impatient and often distracted student.

For those who abuse screen-switching and hiding windows, the laptop can be deployed in class while attending lecture for constant dosage of information.

Unless you have never checked your e-mail, sent a text, sent or received a Gchat message or even checked the time in class, then you believe that you can manage multiple sources of direct information. And since information arrives far quicker through technology than by mouth, our attention spans and school priorities eventually blur.

"Overprogrammed" and "multitasking" are buzzwords, but it's undoubtedly true that our generation seeks instant access, or more simply, gratification to alleviate the daily grind.

I'm not talking about playing "Phoenix" or "Super Mario Brothers" on the TI-83 Plus, I'm talking about our Internet use. Users know where they want to go. Individuals go to familiar sites to absorb whatever that site offers in conjunction with the lecture at hand. This way, users feel like they're able to maximize their attention span.

I can't explain the effects and wrongness of this line of thinking; consult "Digital Nation" on PBS "Frontline" if you want those answers. I can only try to explain the other side. And this is where Mom enters the column.

See, Mom is an Italian professor. Romance languages aren't easy gigs, especially if you want to sound remotely romantic. Claudia and Kiara won't bite for an American without a smooth double-g pronunciation. Language classes require full attention and participation. And Mom is a solid prof, even says so.

Now, Mom tells me that she's making students turn in their cell phones before they enter class next semester.

"Iron-fisted!" I cried. "Archaic!"

Beloved Mom was plenty old-school and hyperbolic about the "worst students I have ever had" and their constant distraction problems, but there lived a more salient and delicate point to which I cannot actually relate.

See, it is imperative for good professors to receive necessary attention from their classes, and the texts and chats and multiple browser tabs are unintentional but undeniable insults to their work.

The best professors devote endless hours of research to their lectures, and we're frequently ignoring that for ... a Facebook photo comment? A "Yeah! LOL" text message? Yikes.

It was easier to see why Mom was so livid after I figured this out.

Free time is free time. You are the captain of how you study - use that time however you see fit.

All I'm saying is respect the prof. And trust me - I'll be starting with anybody who cares to join me.


Disconnect from AirBears with Gabriel at [email protected]

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