Maybe this is yet another example of me being an out of touch childless single person—but lack of direct personal experience has never stopped me from issuing judgment before, so why stop now? After spending all of Christmas day with my cousins’ babies and toddlers, my dissatisfaction with an ostensibly new cultural phenomenon reached its climax:
What is the deal with babies playing on iPads? What is with these iBabies?
Seriously, I’m starting to get the impression that the current generation is being raised by iPads, iPhones, digital cameras and Facebook—and it terrifies me. I would honestly prefer a child raised by wolves. I mean, at least wolves have a heartbeat, emit body heat and are capable of compassion.
I really don’t know why this is starting to freak me out so much. Perhaps my recent Facebook deactivation adventure has transformed me into some sort of anti-tech Luddite and my next move will be to a commune outside Portland. But on Christmas day, I walked into a room and noticed my cousin’s baby, who just turned three, completely and catatonically engrossed over an iPad nestled in his lap. I was hopeful that his semi-comatose reverie could be attributed to novelty. That is, until I got closer and saw that he was rubbing all over its screen with a dexterity I’d previously only seen in diehard Apple devotees. This horrified me. Especially because I’m a person who only recently ditched her Blackberry for an iPhone, mostly because I didn’t think I could handle a non-touchscreen keyboard. Does that somehow indicate that I am less evolved than a three year-old when it comes to hand-eye coordination?
The horror continued a few minutes later when my cousin handed me his digital camera and asked me to take a picture of him and his two year-old son. As soon as the flash went off, the two year-old lurched over to me on the wobbly legs of something that only learned to walk a few short months ago and grabbed the camera out of my hands. He then turned the camera over and pressed the tiny green arrow button so he could display the picture I had just taken on the digital display screen. In other words, a baby who hasn’t yet mastered the skill of peeing and pooping in a toilet recognizes and understands the basic functions of a freaking digital camera.
I fled for the safety of the next room—which I assumed was empty because it was (eerily) silent—only to find my grade school-aged cousins in there texting one another and playing Words With Friends online with strangers on their iPhones. In desperation, I sought solace in the company of someone my own age (my cousin), but was rebuffed because he was too busy crafting a holiday-themed status update and mobile uploading photos of his kids opening their Christmas presents on Facebook.
What the eff is going on these days? Whenever I watch home movies of my childhood Christmases, I am overwhelmed by the unbelievable (almost unbearable) noisiness, what with all of us kids tearing open three dimensional, non-electronic toys and spilling out into the yard to play with them. Nowadays, Christmas looks (and sounds) like a Silicon Valley beta testing tech lab with a bunch of pint-sized developers powering up and testing out their tiny little gadgets. I am literally seized with terror over the thought of what these kids are going to be like when they’re adults.
Honestly, I almost don’t even know where to begin when it comes to analyzing and criticizing this ridiculousness. Of course Aldous Huxley comes to mind. But somehow, I think he would be somewhat surprised to find that the Soma of our brave new world on the eve of 2012 isn’t even a narcotic—it’s a bunch of various-sized two dimensional screens (with three dimensional capabilities, of course).
I keep returning to the research I learned about in college cognitive psych class that infants exhibit a visual preference toward human faces. This probably won’t be the case in the future since everyone is becoming so insanely comfortable using their iScreens to pacify their iBabies into submission. I can’t wait for the first research study in which next-gen babies start to exhibit a visual preference toward screens. And then maybe we’ll realize that was Apple’s plan all along . . . .
(Photo from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/v50/6319721666)