If you’re one of the few people who don’t live on Facebook 16 hours a day, you may still be catching up on its list of most shared articles of the year.
No. 33 on the list, ahead of CNN’s story about the death of Steve Jobs, is a MoneyTalksNews article titled “Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know.” Published on Yahoo Finance, the article was inspired by a similar Huffington Post list of 20 things that became obsolete this decade.
As we get ready to wrap up 2011 with Champagne and streamers, it seems fitting to revisit the MoneyTalks list of obsoletes.
Although we can only speculate on the Web 51.4.3 universe in which babies born this year will come of age in, no one would argue that newsletter classifieds, movie-rental stores and videotapes have gone the way of the horse and buggy. And we can only hope that Yellow Pages and dial-up will be nothing but obscure Wikipedia entries by then.
But a few things on the list are worth reconsidering. Take the idea of never forgetting anything — since all our important data and information is increasingly in our mobile phones, why bother remembering stuff, right?
Say good-bye to flashcards drilling multiplication facts into your brain, or the pain of remembering your mother’s birthday, or the punchline to that joke about the two men walking into a bar and …ummm… hang on a sec, let me pull out the BlackBerry…
Sounds great in principle, until you consider what actually happens in the brain when a human uses it for activating memory. Those 100 billion neurons and the 1,000 to 10,000 connections for each neuron didn’t magically appear after all.
Some studies have shown that it is not the size of the brain but rather the number of synapses that gives the human brain its superiority. I’m not suggesting that having information at our fingertips will degrade our brains back to the days of Homo neanderthalensi (aka Neanderthal man), but I’m not taking any chances in letting the noggin go: Six times nine equals 54; seven times nine equals 63; eight times nine…
The other item on that list that deserves a little more respect is handwritten letters–or anything else handwritten for that matter.
Even Uncle Sam sees the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, and is considering getting out of the letter-delivery business. Think about it: it’s perfectly acceptable today to save 44 cents and a hand–cramp by ditching the handwritten birthday or Christmas card in favor of a singing, flashing, whirling celebratory sentiment you can send to someone’s email inbox in 15 seconds. Or if you’re trendy, you can post it on someone’s Facebook wall and at the same time discreetly display your thoughtfulness to the world, or at least to the 5,000 of your closest friends.
Trends, convenience and Pony Express troubles aside, handwriting remains one of the few last things that make each one of us unique in this digital world. This original “technology” that has enabled the human race to begin collecting all that knowledge we now effortlessly store in the cloud is a tradition worth passing on to subsequent generations.
Even the public education system doesn’t think much of cursive writing anymore. Last year, cursive handwriting no longer became mandatory after new common core standards were adopted by most U.S. states including Washington.
By the time a 2011 new–born graduates from high school, will digital tablets with voice recognition replace pen and paper? Will writing by hand matter at all?
Already, kids are learning to talk and write in the short hand code favored by text messaging. Who wants to try to spell out something like “from the bottom of my heart” when FTBOMH will do. Not even me, TY! IDK y u would.
Even the “words” LOL and OMG officially became part of the Oxford English Dictionary this year. We can see where this is all going.
For me, The saddest item on the list is the end of separation of work and home. I’ve been self-employed out of a home-based office for years so I’ve forgotten long ago what that separation feels like. But maybe I’m kidding myself when I reminisce about those days in an 8-5 job when the time between 5:05 p.m. and 7:55 a.m. was nobody’s business but mine.
So I’d like to offer a toast to the babies born in 2012. May they grow up to still hang on to whatever makes their human spirit tick outside of their digital lives. May they learn to disconnect from all their gadgets once in a while. Take a few minutes to write a thank-you card by hand — or pick up the phone to say hello to a friend instead of firing off a quick text message.
Some old-fashion habits are worth preserving. IMHO.