In the Claudia Wallis essay, “The Multitasking Generation,” the author laments the amount of time that Generation M spends attempting to accomplish a variety of activities while using an array of electronic devices, and the cost of this activity in regards to human interactions. In Sherry Turkel’s essay, “The Flight from Conversation,” Turkel mourns the inability of people to hold actual conversations that reveal their personas because of the rush to connect through electronic devices–email, IMs, Facebook, and other social media. Both writers appear to be extremely concerned about the lack of social and cognitive skills developed by the younger generation as a result its reliance on digital devices. While technology has provided incredible advantages to society in general, the unfortunate result of the constant use and dependence on these devices has seriously threatened the capacity to develop vital social skills of Generation M, and likely, future generations as well.
In the essays, Turkel is more specific about exactly what has been lost through the use of social media: the ability to have a conversation, and without which skills people are destined to be legitimately isolated because they lack the capacity to form a true connection. Turkel seems a bit more alarmed than Wallis about the unrestrained impact of technology on people than Wallis does, although as stated, both writers emphasize that the overuse of technology has negative consequences. She acknowledges that although human relations are complicated, technology allows these connections to be cleaned up, so that they appear to be much cleaner and less difficult than they are in reality (334.) People can present themselves in any way they choose to on the Internet, and those representations may bear little resemblance to the reality of who they are. In addition, because of the ability to delete, Photoshop, substitute material by cutting and pasting, etc., people are able to provide an image of themselves that is not actually true. In addition, connecting in dribs and drabs as is typical of Facebook and Twitter does not actually equate to having actual conversations. Turkel describes the way I contact is almost a thing of the past, because families at dinner tables and people walking on the beach are frequently looking downward, reading their text messages or emails, or on their phones. The family dinner, she laments, is a thing of the past because even though there may be a group of people sitting around the table, many of them are looking towards their laps because they cannot tear themselves away from their devices.
Wallis gives many of the same sorts of examples in her essay, and has an attitude similar to Turkel regarding the downside of reliance on digital communication. However, her focus is different than that of Turkel because she is concerned that the current generation will be sadly lacking in the skills it requires to complete tasks. As a result of the constant multitasking, i.e. being on the telephone while texting and at the same time viewing a program on a device causes the user to be involved in many activities, but does not really allow that person to complete any task order to do well. In a sense, her attitude about multitasking using devices is akin to “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Wallis summarizes the history of the reliance on devices, reminding the reader that this change has occurred relatively quickly; as she reminds us, 15 years ago, most computers were not even links to the Internet (Wallis.) Instead, the most popular technology for young people involved radios and CD players, although by 2004, the computer had become the most valued device overall by large majorities of young people. According to Wallis, around that same time researchers found that young people were using a variety of electronic media on a daily basis, but the standout issue was how many different forms of media they were using simultaneously. The multitasking involved had become tremendous, such as listening to iTunes while watching a DVD and IMing friends at the same time (Wallis.) This was the relatively brief synopsis of the history of multitasking using electronic devices provided by Wallis, and the effect was to illustrate to the reader not only how quickly dependence on electronic devices has become but also how intense the usages for several forms of media at the same time.
The primary difference between the two essays is that Turkel’s’ concern revolves around the inability of young people to appreciate how significant the loss of the ability to converse will be to this generation. She worries that no relationships will really be substantial because there is no opportunity for people to leave themselves and truly joined with others in a real relationship. Wallis, on the other hand, is much more concerned with the multitasking aspect of using so many forms of social media simultaneously that it leaves the users ill-equipped and unprepared to perform tasks thoroughly and competently. As she says, although multitasking may prepare children for the type of “frenzied workplace” that they will need to accommodate in the future, neurologists believe that children that are, for example, doing homework while watching television and messaging their friends all at the same time are not going to be doing well in their future endeavors. Experts who have studied the issue have concluded that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorates when a person is involved with more and more tasks (Wallis.)
The authors provide different examples about the overuse of electronic devices. Turkel discusses the more verbal communication that accompanies the widespread use of devices, such as abbreviations in text messages that are nearly impossible to decipher, as well as abbreviated language such as, “What’s up” being translated as ” ‘Sup” (Turkel.) Wallis gives more examples of activities being performed with devices, and tends to describe more about thinking processes accompanied by physical actions, such as chopping onions while watching television. These are examples that are given by Wallis to express that certain activities can occur successfully when performed at the same time, as compared with others that result in inadequate results, such as reading while talking on the telephone.
Both of these essays addressed problematic aspects about the advances in technology that have led to so much dependence on electronic devices. In the Turkel essay, the writer views the continued and increasing use of electronic devices as a detrimental factor in contributing to the lost art of conversation and therefore, of truly knowing who individuals are personally. Wallis warns of multitasking using electronic devices as having a negative impact on the users’ ability to finish tasks and to perform them well.