Recently, while at a local coffee shop, I witnessed the most peculiar thing; there sat a man, alone, patiently sipping his coffee, gazing off into the distance, merely soaking in the surrounding environment. While this may not seem odd, I found it to be quite unique because, in this day and age, it is unheard of to see anyone out in public who is not engaged in a meeting, consumed in work, or glued to a screen.
This fast-paced, technology-driven lifestyle is corrupting the younger generation’s minds by confining their thoughts to exclusively produce narrow-minded unoriginal ideas. Adults are also suffering from a decline in imaginative creativity, yet the longer someone is initially exposed to technology, the greater the exponential plummet of their development occurs. A creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary recently analyzed the results of the Torrance test from 1990 to the current day. This test measures a facet of creativity referred to as “divergent thinking” (Rettner 1). Over this period of time, Torrance scores have dramatically decreased as SAT scores have skyrocketed. Unfortunately, successful SAT scores do not translate to intellectual, independent thinking, but are rather achieved through studying without “[encouraging] original” conceptualizations (Rettner 1). Parents put too much unnecessary pressure on their children to perform to their best academic and physical abilities, yet seem to have neglected the importance of ensuring that their child’s brain is fully developed.
Despite all of this, many disagree, and argue that technology serves as a toolbox for innovative learning. Moreover, technology eradicates barriers of past obstacles that prevented the development of new scientific or technological discoveries. For example, Greg Satell, bestselling author and Harvard Business Review Contributor, realizes that with technology, it is easier than it has ever been in history to collaborate with others despite the distance. He further adds that if Darwin would have had technology at his disposal, his theory could have been completed half a century earlier with the help of “his contemporary, Gregory Mendel,” who discovered the principles of genetics shortly after Darwin himself (Satell 2). However, because of the lack of technology, in their entire existence, each man was unaware of the other’s findings.
That being said, in order for one to create such advanced discoveries, it is crucial that the mind, beginning at childhood, has the opportunity to flourish and grow independently. Until the age of 21, the brain experiences rapid development that is determined by environmental stimuli, or the absence thereof. Chris Rowan, a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, explains that when the brain is overexposed to technology, simulations in the brain have a negative effect on individuals’ “executive functioning” and lead to “attention deficit,” heightened impulsivity, “cognitive delays,” and a reduced “ability to self-regulate” oneself (Bernstein 1). The brain requires downtime to simply ponder the many hidden imaginative ideas that are often never dug up because the mind is distracted by too many other hindrances throughout life. When the mind is intentionally given the freedom to transcend the fast-paced, insanity of the American culture, then creativity can ignite and lead to extraordinary revelations.
Imagination needs time and space to blossom, just as learning to play a sport or instrument requires strong learning comprehension followed with endless practice. This practice can translate into merely doing “nothing,” giving your mind time to find peace, partaking in what brings you joy, or actively challenging your mind to think creatively instead of conforming to society’s confinements.
Technology is far from the enemy, yet wouldn’t it be lovely to follow the practices of the transcendentalist I encountered at the coffee shop, and take a moment to let our minds reach beyond fixed enclosures? There is nothing to lose. There is only an endless possibility of having an unexpected realization or discovering something profoundly new. Who knows, you might just envision the next Harry Potter series, or create the next Mona Lisa!
Bernstein, Melissa. “How Screens Are Hurting Kids Imaginations.” Time, Time, time.com/4544654/how-were-endangering-our-kids-imaginations/.
Rettner, Rachael. “Are Today’s Youth Less Creative & Imaginative?” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 12 Aug. 2011, www.nbcnews.com/id/44121819/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/are-todays-youth-less-creative-imaginative/#.XYGkETtlmqA.
Satell, Greg. “How Technology Enhances Creativity.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Feb. 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/01/27/how-technology-enhances-creativity/#3ad827bd3f50.
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