A new generation of human children has been found to develop some interesting and disturbing new traits thanks to decades of screen-based entertainment and education. A recent interview with one family, who want to remain anonymous, sheds light on what has been dubbed the “TechZombie Generation”, and thanks to them giving us access to their daily struggle we can perhaps learn how to combat this growing problem.
Or is it a problem?
We will also be reporting upon an interview given by one SecondGen TechZombie who finds it offensive that his way of life is being threatened, and sees no wrong in living the way he does.
People first started noticing the growing change in the first decade of the 21st century, particularly in people’s reading habits; paper books were, over time, being replaced by eReaders such as the Kindle, apps on a smartphone, or tablet. It was slow progress at first, but then it was increasingly commonplace to see someone swiping or poking at a device, rarely witnessing the crinkle of a paper page, or creak of a spine being bent back. There were bitter discussions about which format was best, with many fighting for the paper book and all the traditional benefits that come along side, and others promoting the convenience of the digital format. Most of those advocating the paper book, however, were also proud owners of smartphones, or a tablet, and they were already primed for a digital takeover whether they wanted it or not, their fate was already sealed.
It took another generation of those born into the digital age, who would take to a touchscreen as if it was the most natural thing in the world, to provoke the coining of the word ‘TechZombies”. This generation was the one who would mistake magazines for iPads and wonder why the screen wasn’t responding when they swiped it. They would be bored to the point of near death without screen-based entertainment. Truly unable to comprehend life before mobile entertainment units. The first true TechZombies.
The White family (name has been changed for privacy reasons) agreed to give us an insight into their lives as third and second generation TechZombies. Mrs White is an unassuming woman in her 30’s who works from home, as most SecondGens do now, as a data analyst for Corp Corporation. This gives her time, she says, to raise her children. She calls over her two ThirdGen TechZombies, both of whom are sitting on the sofa watching television. The smallest child puts on a pair of square, clear-rimmed glasses before switching off the television. Mrs White sighs and tells of her concern for her youngest child. “He doesn’t go anywhere without his glasses. They’re not even a real prescription! He used to throw the most terrible tantrums when he wasn’t staring at a screen, and we heard about this trial in America where out of control ThirdGens were given mini-screens for their eyes, calming the sensory need for glass rectangles in front of the eyeball. It works for him. We can converse with him sometimes, it’s amazing.”
I look at her son, and he almost looks at me, his eyes never quite focussing on anything. It didn’t look like he would be feeling chatty any time soon. I have, of course, seen similar states with ThirdGens in my own family, but not to this extent. This felt like the next level of TechZombie, and I must admit it chilled me for a moment. I ask Mr White, another SecondGen analyst, if he thinks there was anything they could’ve done to prevent such an extreme reaction in his son but he shakes his head, “He was born like this. Our generation couldn’t avoid screens, how are we supposed to keep our children away? The prevention should have happened when our public libraries were being closed, when new schools were being built with computer rooms bigger than the libraries, when people were seriously arguing that paper is out-dated and useless. I blame our ancestors for not keeping paper books relevant.”
Many share his view, especially the older generations, some of whom remember libraries, and have kept old reading formats such as paperbacks, and comics. This pro-paper underground group call themselves the “Vanillin Villains”, and are steadfast in their belief that paper will return to claim its rightful place in the hands of the bored or restless. Members have been arrested for speaking out against Corp Corporation’s paperless worldview but that doesn’t seem to deter the movement.
Corp Corporation has a multitude of supporters, including one SecondGen robotics engineer, John, who is perfectly happy to live in a world without paper books, and doesn’t appreciate being told how ‘unnatural’ it is. Having been born into a family of smartphone, tablet, and Google Glass users, John says he was practically born with a smartphone in his hands. At the age when his parents had been learning to hold a pencil, John could type at some speed and had the manual dexterity to use a smartphone one-handed. By the time John was 7 he was programming basic robotics programs for fun. He had never picked up a paper book in his life, his grandmother was the only one in the family who still had any and kept them behind a glass door, but he had read many stories and been read to as a child so didn’t feel he was missing out. “I don’t feel the need for the old formats but I wouldn’t stop anyone else from using them” he stated, “I’m sure many others feel the same but I guess it is just a shame no one spoke up earlier. Corp Corporation were just following the people’s lead; people wanted advanced technology to ease their busy lives, and that’s what they got. I for one am thoroughly enjoying it.”
Only time will tell whether this will be an increasing problem, perhaps those who miss the old way of reading should stand up against Corp Corporation, and be counted.
Do not be surprised if you are then picked up in a van with blacked out windows in the early hours of the morning, never to be seen again…