Abundant choices prevent readers from connecting
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 00:02
Whether you’re listening to your friend tell you about his or her day, watching television or reading a book or magazine, there is a story being told. Unfortunately, many stories have become fluff to pass the time, as people are increasingly unable to draw lessons from them.
The Native Americans call story telling the “oral tradition,” which is a method of passing on information through forms of expression like words, pictures, dance or music. For some cultures, like West Africa, stories are what keep their culture alive.
Stories are told over and over, with children and adults often being told or reading a story so many times they have it memorized and begin to tell it themselves, albeit often with a twist of their own.
Even as Americans, many of us had a favorite story our parents would read to us. No matter how many times we heard it, we would request an encore.
All of the stories served a purpose for more than just entertainment — they were lessons. Even if the story was completely fictional, it still served a purpose in teaching us about the world and about ourselves.
No matter what culture, the importance of storytelling is in the ability to invoke emotion and to instruct us. As the webpage for the Cultural Heritage Initiative for Community Outreach states, “After we hear, or read, a [story], we carry that story around inside of us. It becomes a part of who we are. And, in a way, we become a part of the story.”
Stories allow us to grow and become a part of the message. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. We have reached a time of story overload. Thanks to the rise of technology, there are so many stories to be read, watched and heard. We are filling our brains with as many as we can, but are no longer taking the time to allow them to “become a part of us.”
Many arguments have been made about whether TV programs are affecting the way our children think and act. There is no argument. We are a product of our environments, as well as of the stories we read, watch and hear. Even Congress realized this when they enacted the Children’s Television Act of 1990. This act was developed to ensure a wide availability of quality, educational television for children. Variety is not what we need.
Ask your parents about what television was like when they were kids, and they’ll likely agree on a couple of key shows all of the children watched. Now there are hundreds of children’s programs, and some children are watching almost all of them. This overload of choices is detracting from the ability to connect with the programs and take in the lessons that need to be learned.
As we get older, this phenomenon only gets worse, with more books becoming available as our reading ability develops, more movies we’re allowed to watch and more friends with lifetimes worth of experience they can share.
Stuart Wolpert of the UCLA Newsroom says, “As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined.”
This access of information overload is no different than our story overload. We’re no longer able to gather the lessons that allow us to think critically.
This has become evident in my classes. When a professor asks for us to reflect on a concept we’ve learned and compare it to real life, students will often raise their hands and tell a story. However, when asked what they learned from that story, many students will pause and have to take the time to actually come up with an answer. Students are compiling memories but aren’t allowing their lessons to sink in. This is drastically decreasing critical thinking abilities.
Stories are our bloodline for knowledge, but we need to be able to connect with them and draw out the lessons. Story availability is only increasing this blood pressure to rates our brains can’t feed from. Albert Einstein predicted this with his famous quote: “I fear the day when technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”
Alexander Vervloet is a senior in communications. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Vervloet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Rantsweekly.