Back in the Fifties, people thought rock and roll would send their kids to hell. Adults just knew when hips shake that much, your morals fall out. In the Nineties, after the horror at Columbine, a new generation decided that computer games caused teenage violence, on the rather advanced grounds that digital entities were the moral equivalent of actual human beings.
Today we have this: according the the usual “researchers” who conducted a “study,” Twitter and Facebook can erode moral values.
The reason? Compassion takes time to activate. Those crazy kids tweet way too fast to feel each other’s pain.
“If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people’s psychological states and that would have implications for your morality,” said Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, from the University of Southern California, and one of the researchers.
In other words — actually, I don’t have any other words. I have no idea what Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, from the University of Southern California, meant. What is “too fast”? At what point does one “fully experience” other people’s “psychological states”? What in life doesn’t have implications for “your morality”?
I’m pretty sure Mary Helen Immordino-Yang is over 30 (it might have taken that long to grow her name). I’ll bet money she doesn’t tweet. And although she speaks in riddles, I’m pretty sure that, if she did tweet, she would be heard praising this activity as an ethical and salutary form of ultra-physical communications.
The problem here isn’t research, or a study, or moral decline: it’s fear of obsolesence. For Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, those damned kids are dancing too fast to what can only be devil music. “Too fast,” by the way, probably means: I can’t keep up with you — I don’t get it — I’m a researcher from the University of Southern California, for God’s sakes, and you must be sick or immoral to make me feel so old.
I do not wish to pick on Mary Helen Immordino-Yang. Or maybe I do: but I also mean to excuse her somewhat. The modern world is defined by a titanic transformation. It makes us all socially obsolete. It throws out new fashions and technologies that appear, to those too old to participate, morally sinister and harmful to one’s health. I can only imagine what went through my parents’ mind when they first saw teenagers dancing to rock and roll. I remember well watching my prudent, peaceful first-born wreak bloody hell on a monitor. It made me wonder.
But the rock and rollers grew up to worry about their 401ks. The gamers got jobs and are, no doubt, happy to be taxed trillions of dollars to preserve the rockers’ future. As for the tweeters — please. Nobody has demonstrated that they read less, think less, or feel less, than those of us whose history may be longer than our future. There’s not a shred of evidence showing that digital media drives the Millennials “away from traditional avenues for learning about humanity such as literature or face-to-face social interactions.”
That’s just Mary Helen Immordino-Yang talking. Like the Daily Me — the charge that online information-gathering cocoons users in smug, self-ratifying bubbles — her speculations characterize the author far more than the subject.