March 29th, 2014

The fastest generation

I was on an airplane recently that was completely full—as almost all airplanes I ride seem to be these days.

I was seated on the aisle next to two female college students who were clearly friends of each other. Maybe half the time they spent doing their homework. The one directly next to me, whose work I could see, first did some sort of trig-ish assignment, and then turned to peruse a textbook with a chapter that summarized the work of Freud by applying his theories to Kurt Cobain’s suicide—demonstrating the futility of attempts at cultural relevance on the part of textbook writers, because the event occurred in 1994, probably before those girls were even born.

But what I noticed most wasn’t their homework. The rest of the time they were doing two things: talking, and scrolling through their photos on their cell phones. I was deeply impressed by the speed with which they could do both.

Their speech rate was phenomenal. I’m no slouch myself in the talking department, and I have friends with high speech rates, but I’ve never heard anything remotely like these girls. And their fingers flew across their cellphones in similar fashion. They were the hummingbirds of talk and of phone photo galleries—and, I’d imagine, of texting.

I have a feeling they are hardly alone. The newer generations have developed skills we can only dream about.

Which gave me the idea that perhaps on YouTube there are proud videos by young people showing how fast they can text. Instead, I found something even more organized: speed texting competitions. And apparently this has been going on for quite a few years.

Here’s a video about one of the biggest contests, which is held in NY and has a prize of $50,000:

These kids are focused and serious. You can mock or revile what it is they happen to be serious and focused about (which, by the way, includes not just straight speed texting, but blindfold texting and behind-the-back texting), but at least it’s better than a lot of other things they could be doing with their time.

I don’t text, by the way. By the time I’m finished blogging for the day, a keyboard is the last thing I want to deal with.

18 Responses to “The fastest generation”

  1. J.J. Says:

    This is disturbing but not surprising.

    When I was that age I spent as much of my waking hours as I could on rock climbing in the summer and skiing in the winter. Both are sports where practice allows you to improve. Every time you see improvement, the endorphin rush is such that you want more. It’s addictive! As is texting, etc. My mother was sure I was going straight to Hell because my addictions had no economic value that she could see. Fortunately for me, I was forced to do enough school work and get jobs (Those were the days when teens could hold jobs like ditch digger, log-peeler, Blister Rust Controller, and mail sorter – to name a few of my summer jobs.) I skied and climbed all through college, but did enough academic work to graduate. I planned to be a ski patrolman in the winter and seasonal Park Ranger in the summer, but Uncle Sam had other ideas. Old Uncle Sam broke my addictions. :-) The rest, as they say, is history.

    My concern is whether these electronic addictions can be translated into economic activities. Will these youngsters be able to hold a job that is boring and keeps them separated from their addiction? Can they translate these skills into something that will support them? I hope so.

  2. Charles Says:

    ” . . . a prize of $50,000″

    Sort of makes it worth it for some, doesn’t it?

    Kudos to them for trying and succeeding!

  3. blert Says:

    The multi-tasking craze may be for real.

    I’ve got two screens, two computers and two keyboards running right now.

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    A theory I’ve been working on is that the generation of low attention span came before and at the advent of the information age with personal computers.

    Those who are used to the internet and use its data streaming functions must absorb an extremely large amount of data in a small amount of time. It’s only the generations before then, that did not get this conditioning, that can’t watch videos lasting longer than 30 seconds. The so called 5 second sound bite on media.

    The ADD of the new generations is that the information is too weak and empty, it does not have enough bandwidth. But when the bandwidth is supplied and there is actual content in the video and data, then the information is eaten up at a pace that exceeds what people think is the attention span of youths.

    In a different venue, recent individual advances have provided a large bulk of martial arts theory and applications online. In the past, the very concept of learning martial arts from a book or video was frowned upon as incomplete or nonsensical.

    It is very difficult for old martial artists, who learned things in a traditional dojo or practical course, to understand how videos are integrated in the modern era for theory and applications hybrids.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Blert, I’ve seen that topped.

    One picture I’ve seen had 24 monitors, run on several boxed server systems.

  6. MzeeTamu Says:

    This fast generation will have large thumbs.

  7. rickl Says:

    I sometimes encounter fast-talking young people on the phone at work. They often tend to have poor diction as well. I can’t understand them, and sometimes have to ask them to repeat themselves multiple times.

  8. southpaw Says:

    The only complaint I have with Generation Text is many of them are addicted to it, and cannot put the phone down for more than 5 minutes.
    I use text when I want to convey a message to someone and can’t call or don’t want to; but for huge number of these kids, it occupies a larger percentage of their day than any 3 activities combined. I can’t imagine anybody having that much of importance to discuss – like the Facebook junkies, who feel it’s necessary to update everyone they know every 3 minutes about bowel movements, rashes, the line at the grocery store, and so on.
    Up until the mobile phone, every thought or activity one had or did was not considered worth reporting. 10,000 years from now, they will look at the 100,000 square miles of NSA buildings erected to store the meta-messages, and wonder how we managed to get anything done when we spent 8 out of 24 hours taking selfies and sending them to each other.

  9. Ymarsakar Says:

    It’s a way of zoning out, since generally modern America teaches people zero social skills, apart from your job or your political royalty.

    Since humans desire some form of social contact anyways to feel safe, the internet provides the substitution, when people lack the confidence for face to face contact.

  10. gs Says:

    A worthwhile bit of anthropology by our hostess.

    A high-frequency lifestyle will tend to disregard low-frequency effects, i.e. long-term consequences.
    This could be part of why emergent generations fall so hard for progressive/Obama BS.

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I can certainly confirm, as I’m sure many others can as well, the speed and dexterity the young demonstrate with all things ‘computerized’. Growing up with a technology makes all the difference.

    Texting itself is just another means of communication and like any tool can be either useful or harmful, in this case, to the user. Sadly, it is being used by far too many in a manner that is demonstrably harmful to the user.

    Kids Asleep, But Still Texting

    “Well here’s a decidedly 21st century sleep issue. Apparently there’s a rising phenomenon among teens: sleep texting. That’s right, teens are reaching for their phones during the night, firing off messages, and waking with no recollection of their actions.

    We’re all aware of how deeply embedded social media and technology are in our culture today. This is especially true for young people. One study suggests that teens send an average of 100 texts per day! Texting while sleeping is a sign of just how deeply rooted these habits are for teens. Before you chuckle this one off: the intrusion of technology into sleep is a real issue in our modern age, one with serious health consequences, especially among teenagers.”

    Texting is a reflection of certain aspects of our culture. Texting is ‘rushed’ and truncated communication. Entirely appropriate if all that is needed is a quick note. Entirely inappropriate for someone’s primary means of communication with no reflection or nuance. Kid’s sleep texting confirms that many of the young are using it far too much.

    Especially relevant to this cultural aspect is a 1982 Documentary film entitled: “Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance” a 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke. In the Hopi language, the word Koyaanisqatsi means “unbalanced life”.

    The film consists primarily of slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and many natural landscapes across the United States. The film is a visual tone poem that contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and music. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t achieve much notice with the public.

    The director Reggio explained the lack of dialogue by stating “it’s not for lack of love of the language that these films have no words. It’s because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live.”

    Here’s a 2:16 second trailer. The trailer shows our modern civilization’s ‘frenetic, no time to spare’ milieu but unfortunately does not provide the film’s contrast between man’s hurried urban life and nature’s inherent serenity.

    Fortunately, for those interested, the entire movie is available online for free at Hulu.

  12. waitforit Says:

    There is no final end to an asymmetric geometric logarithmic curve except in the limit.

    We don’t know what the limit is but are fast approaching that knowledge if we can survive the speed of change.

    There are clues.

  13. waltj Says:

    To me, texting is just another form of communication, one which I use a lot. I often have to exchange information with people for whom English is not a first (or even second) language, so seeing a message spelled out in textbook English (I rarely use “SMS-ese”) is frequently easier and more efficient than struggling through someone’s heavy accent (or the other person struggling with my Americanisms). Text also allows me to leave a written message to someone who may be away from his computer, and not able to answer the phone. Like many other things, texting can be taken to absurd extremes, but it also has its uses.

  14. waitforit Says:

    Please text the rest of this message:

    To >> my account//$30 mil/por favor.

    Account info to follow.

    Hope you like American dollars, which I use a lot.

    I got u. I got u.

  15. NeoConScum Says:

    We are seeing exactly what Einstein predicted in the arrival of, “a generation of idiots.”

    Lucky us. Brutish, loutish, inconsiderate, absent simple courtesy and utterly CLUELESS. The “Milleniuals” are addicted to Facebook ‘self-mythology’ and i-Thingy ‘selfies’ and Tweety ‘all about self’ crap, blah-blah-blah.

    Vacuous. Vapid. Selfish. Looky at Meeeeeeeeeee..!! Pathetic.

    My wife and I thoroughly enjoy the culture shock of the Great Smoky Mtns. of western N.Carolina twice a year where it’s common to NOT see airheads pounding on I-Thingies at restaurant tables; youngsters playing on swings, monkey bars and hopscotch. Wonderful.

  16. Oldflyer Says:

    NeoConScum must have been misled by what “commentators” say. Have you been around real kids lately?

    For the past two years my wife and I have been immersed in the high school/college age mileu as we moved west to be near family after being a continent apart for many years.

    I have been shocked.

    Shocked by how athletic and fit so many of these alleged couch potato kids are. I see track and cross country meets with thousands of runners. Soccer tournaments all over the landscape with countless others racing to and fro. On the same weekend other thousands are swimming or playing tennis. Heading out to a weekend of track and soccer in another city, we passed a number of local high school kids at 6AM on a Saturday morning doing their training runs along the road, in the dark, with little headlights and reflective vests.

    I am shocked at how imaginative and productive so many of these kids are. How easily they use technology to create. Two grand daughters routinely create birthday or Christmas gifts on DVD’s that evoke family memories (admittedly usually centered on themselves–and treasured.)

    Surprising work ethic. Kids who don’t need to work because parents do give them virtually anything; but find jobs anyway because it is part of their DNA. Diligent in school; and taking courses that were upper level college in my day.

    Surprising spirituality among a percentage of kids. Not all; not as many as during my youth. But, it is still alive.

    Spiritual or not, they are caring. From bone marrow donors to running/walking for all kinds of good causes. Actually putting the phones down to visit hospitalized friends (seems all too frequent)–in addition to texting them of course.

    Admittedly, there are times when I would like to rip the phones from hands and growl; “look at your mother/father/grandmother, and respond when they are talking to you”. But, I was raised differently.

    And they do talk fast; at least the girls do. I can hardly understand them on the phone. So, texting is a useful way to exchange information remotely. Slow for me, lightening fast for them.

    All in all, I see a lot of positives.

  17. NeoConScum Says:

    Oldflyer: Yes, I’m around ‘yoots alot. And some (I work around some incredible 20-somethings) give me hope for our ‘Midst of a Shipwreck’ nation.

    Your ‘Tell’, Oldie, is the paragraph which begins, “Admittedly..” and ends with your excusing the absence of mere courtesy:”But, I was raised differently.”

    All in all, I see far less positives than thee. (-:

  18. Oldflyer Says:

    But, NCS, courtesy is a learned attribute. Where it is lacking, there is not necessarily any intent to be discourteous, just lack of awareness.

    I believe that much awareness comes from maturity. So, time will correct many deficiencies.

    The positives that I noted overshadow the negatives in my mind. Now, to fall back on “admittedly”, I am generally around youngsters who are favored by genetics or favorable circumstance; or both. But, then again, I have no doubt that they are the future leaders and pillars.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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