Wednesday, June 09, 2010


With considerably more ooh-ing and ah-ing from the assembled masses than accompanied the Sermon On The Mount, Steve Jobs officially revealed the iPhone 4 this week, and those media types in attendance who touched the hem of His garment--sorry, I mean handled the phone personally--agreed that it is indeed The Greatest Thing Ever.  It's smaller than the previous iPhone, it's sleeker, it has hi-def resolution, it has multi-function capabilities which allow you to run numerous apps at once, which  I guess?

Hell, I don't know.  The point seems to be, you'll never need another media device, ever.  It's the best phone you'll ever own, unless you want to call someone, since Apple inexplicably maintains its ties with the notoriously unreliable AT&T network, but whatever.  Who makes phone calls anymore, when all your friends are online?

On a totally unrelated note, a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan shows a marked decrease in levels of empathy among college students today.  When presented with simple statements such as "I sometimes have tender feelings for those less fortunate than me," students were 40 percent more likely to issue a negative response than their counterparts in decades past. 

The study did not seek to analyze the reasons for this drop in compassion, but the director of the project, Sara Konrath, was willing to hazard a guess.  "The increase in exposure to media during this time period could be one factor," she said.  "Compared to thirty years ago, the average American is now exposed to three times as much information."

Indeed, though calling much of what we're exposed to "information" seems a bit kind.  Mostly we're confronted with sensation, empty experience, most of it from several directions at once.  Texting a friend on your phone while also updating your Facebook status on your laptop while sipping an overpriced drink at Starbucks means you're not really devoting your attention to any single task, and while the coffee at Starbucks isn't really worth savoring, many things in life are. 

The bitter irony here couldn't be more thuddingly obvious, and yet so many people seem still unable to get the point: The very technology that was supposed to bring us all together has instead driven us all apart.