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The Big Answer


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The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking

a book by Mark Bauerlein

(our site's book review)

The Perils and Promise of the Social Media Revolution

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University. His books include Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (1997) and Negrophobia: A Race Riot in Atlanta, 1906 (2001). His essays have appeared in PMLA, Partisan Review, Wilson Quarterly , and Yale Review, and his commentaries and reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, Reason magazine, and elsewhere.

This definitive work on the perils and promise of the social media revolution collects writings by today's best thinkers and cultural commentators, with an all-new introduction by Bauerlein. Twitter, Facebook, e-publishing, blogs, distance-learning and other social media raise some of the most divisive cultural questions of our time. Some see the technological breakthroughs we live with as hopeful and democratic new steps in education, information gathering, and human progress. But others are deeply concerned by the eroding of civility online, declining reading habits, withering attention spans, and the treacherous effects of 24/7 peer pressure on our young.

Sadly, 19% of high school graduates cannot read
Sadly, 19% of high school graduates cannot read

With The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30), Mark Bauerlein emerged as the foremost voice against the development of an overwhelming digital social culture. But The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking doesn't take sides. Framing the discussion so that leading voices from across the spectrum, supporters and detractors alike, have the opportunity to weigh in on the profound issues raised by the new media-from questions of reading skills and attention span, to cyber-bullying and the digital playground, Bauerlein's new book takes the debate to a higher ground.

The book includes essays by Steven Johnson, Nicholas Carr (The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains), Don Tapscott, Douglas Rushkoff, Maggie Jackson, Clay Shirky, Todd Gitlin, and many more. Though these pieces have been previously published, the organization of The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking gives them freshness and new relevancy, making them part of a single document readers can use to truly get a handle on online privacy, the perils of a plugged-in childhood, and other technology-related hot topics.

Rather than dividing the book into "pro" and "con" sections, the essays are arranged by subject-"The Brain, the Senses," "Learning in and out of the Classroom," "Social and Personal Life," "The Millennials," "The Fate of Culture," and "The Human (and Political) Impact." Bauerlein incorporates a short headnote and a capsule bio about each contributor, as well as relevant contextual information about the source of the selection.

Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich says we are training our brains to pay attention to crap
Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich says we are training our brains to pay attention to crap

Social Media Revolution Reactions Waver between Criticism and Endorsement

Bauerlein also provides a new introduction that traces the development of the debate, from the initial Digital Age zeal, to a wave of skepticism, and to a third stage of reflection that wavers between criticism and endorsement.

Our young's obsession with cyber-reality has divorced them from non-cyber-reality and they've sunk into a stupor of eternal adolescence
Our young's obsession with cyber-reality has divorced them from non-cyber-reality and they've sunk into a stupor of eternal adolescence

Enthusiasm for the Digital Age has cooled with the passage of time and the piling up of real-life examples that prove the risks of an online-focused culture. However, there is still much debate, comprising thousands of commentaries and hundreds of books, about how these technologies are rewriting our futures. Now, with this timely and definitive volume, readers can finally cut through the clamor, read the very best writings from each side of The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking, and make more informed decisions about the presence and place of technology in their lives.

The dumbing of America via the Internet
The dumbing of America via the Internet

In Sherry Turkle's Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, she argues that there is an assault on empathy that is affecting our personal and work lives and that conversation, the most human and humanizing thing we do, is the talking cure. It analyzes a contemporary flight from conversation and charts the way back to using face-to-face communication to find each other and find ourselves.

Sherry Turkle analyzes a contemporary flight from conversation and charts the way back to using face-to-face communication to find each other and find ourselves
Sherry Turkle analyzes a contemporary flight from conversation and charts the way back to using face-to-face communication to find each other and find ourselves

The Digital Divide Is a Reader, Assembling Mostly Well-Known Essays about Digital Culture’s Potential and Its Challenges

"The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook Google Texting and the Age of Social Networking does not rehash the earlier book [The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)], nor does it take up its title’s most common meaning, the problems of economic class and access to the hardware and bandwidth necessary to access the tools and creations of the internet age. Instead, it is a reader, assembling mostly well-known essays about digital culture’s potential and its challenges. The contributors to the volume mostly speak to the questions, “has the way we think changed at all with the advent of digital tools? If so, how? To what ends?” Bauerlein makes this goal plain in his introduction:"

We have witnessed stunning transformations of society, politics, communication, and even selfhood. New identities have emerged or been fabulously empowered—the angry citizen with a video camera handy, the hyper-social networking teenager, the blog “troll,” avatars. To understand them, to judge them well, we need steady and penetrating reminders of the changes they have wrought. The writers included here provide just that. (Source: Your Mind on the Internet: Bauerlein’s Digital Divide, Jason B. Jones, The Chronicle of Higher Education)


Today’s Students Are No Longer the People Our Educational System Was Designed to Teach

The author Marc Prensky says "We need to invent Digital Native (born with digital tech) methodologies for all subjects, at all levels, using our students to guide us. The process has already begun—I know college professors inventing games for teaching subjects ranging from math to engineering to the Spanish Inquisition. We need to find ways of publicizing and spreading their successes."

The digital natives speak a different language than the digital immigrants (born before digital tech) so us immigrants need to stop trying to teach natives using immigrant languages they cannot relate to. "Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach."

"Privacy has long been a concern for Facebook users . . . [and failure to] protect personal information. . . . Facebook can be truly addictive, making you spend more time than you would like scrolling the news-feed. According to a study conducted in 2011, quitting social networking sites can be just as challenging as quitting cigarettes or alcohol. . . . Parents are concerned because the number of cases of children committing suicide due to cyberbullying on social networks is increasing. . . . Susan Greenfield claims that Facebook is in part responsible for making a generation that is fixated on their self-image and need constant attention from their peers. . . . Teenagers may post pictures of their friends at parties and other places that can come back to haunt them later. These, if seen by the wrong people, could affect collage admissions or even job applications. . . . [On the other hand,] When Facebook is used correctly it can be empowering, educational, and fun. Facebook is a useful platform to share your ideas, thoughts, causes, and get feedback from other Facebook users with whom you have shared interests. You can hold an in-depth conversation and be notified every time another user comments or shares an idea. You can also share memorable photos with friends and family whenever you need to." (Source: The Pros and Cons of Facebook)


Facebook Encourages False-Self Actualization, Not Real Self-Actualization and Connections, Not Bonds

Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds
Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds

"Regardless of where you choose to create a profile, social media platforms all share a few pros and a few cons. The pros? Social media profiles are great for SEO, make it easy to measure engagement, and are free to join and maintain! The cons? Posting new content and maintaining the account will take a lot of time and effort, as will building up a substantial number of followers." Weigh the pros and cons of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest here: The Pros and Cons of Social Media Platforms, by Michelle Phillips.

Apple iPhone is great for texting, but is texting great for humans?
Apple iPhone is great for texting, but is texting great for humans?


Social networks don’t create relationships or fill the void from lack of relationships—they often make lonely or friendless people feel more depressed and lonely
Social networks don’t create relationships or fill the void from lack of relationships—they often make lonely or friendless people feel more depressed and lonely


Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011
Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011

"Proponents of social networking sites say that the online communities promote increased interaction with friends and family; offer teachers, librarians, and students valuable access to educational support and materials; facilitate social and political change; and disseminate useful information rapidly.

Opponents of social networking say that the sites prevent face-to-face communication; waste time on frivolous activity; alter children’s brains and behavior making them more prone to ADHD; expose users to predators like pedophiles and burglars; and spread false and potentially dangerous information." (Source: Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society?)

" . . . we are entering an era in which young adults are placing an inordinately high priority on being unfailingly responsive and dedicated participants in the web of personal messaging that surrounds them in their daily lives. For now, it seems, addictive responses to peer pressure, boredom, and social anxiety are playing a much bigger role in wiring Millennial brains than problem-solving or deep thinking.”—Pew Research Center

This book was not written by Mark Bauerlein, only the introduction was. The rest of the book is just a compilation of several different views on all aspects of technology today. After one reads through many of the short essays and opinion comments of the readers, one sees that Bauerlein picked only the essays that corresponded directly to the subject of the book. None of them strayed away from the topic. The topics included also cover a wide range of subjects and viewpoints spanning from the internet to video games to the effects of these things on the brain. Each essay has its own take on the situation at hand, and has sufficient evidence to support its take.


As Technology Ramps Up, Our Emotional Lives Ramp Down

As technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down
As technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down

See:


The Pros and Cons of Facebook

"Facebook is also known for finding dates. Indeed, with a social network powered by over 1 billion active users, it’s easy to find a date that shares common interests and hobbies. Finding dates in this way, much of the time you won’t get into incompatibility issues. . . . One should be careful about fake Facebook profiles, though, as they are usually created by stalkers or spammers. . . . Facebook is also becoming one of the major vehicles for failed relationship and breakups. . . . You can also use Facebook as a site to host images and videos. You can set privacy levels for individual albums to control who can see what you share. . . . The real advantage of Facebook is that it’s a real-time social networking site. This makes it one of the best sources to stay updated with the latest news and information. Major news usually goes viral on Facebook, and most brands use it to announce important things regarding their products/services. . . . [However,] Facebook is full of fake profiles. There is no limit to these profiles. Most of them are created by stalkers or marketers looking to gain more friends and use it for their marketing purposes. . . . Being one of the best ways to stay updated about what your friends are doing, people spend too much time on this vast social networking site. Facebook offers many entertainment applications and games which engage users to a great extent. Apart from that, Facebook chat and Facebook video chat are another two time-consuming features." (Source: What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Facebook?, rahul964)

Is Facebook annoying? Yes—at very least. We know a guy who joined up and set all preferences to no or don't or never. But he kept getting email notices from them about various people he "ought to" connect with. He checked all preferences. Everything was shut off. But Facebook kept bugging him until he quit and closed his account. They kept bugging him anyway. He replied: please leave me alone. They kept sending him crap from various people. It was like a virus. And he could not get rid of it even though he had NO account with them. He saw Facebook as a disease from then on. It cured him of any social networking desires permanently. It felt like an interfering father trying to get his kid to socialize—"it'll be good for you." Kids who socialize to get an authority figure to quit bugging them are patronizing or placating or even mollifying. But that ain't socializing. Relating under duress is something between slavery and extortion. But socializing? Not so much. This guy wanted to socialize under his own terms, not those dictated by an aggressively pushy authoritarian outfit too big for its britches. Socializing desires—if they are genuine—must come from within. They cannot be imposed.

Facebook worst case scenario: it's like a virus one cannot get rid of
Facebook worst case scenario: it's like a virus one cannot get rid of

Privacy—R.I.P.

For a deeper look at Facebook's and Google's attitude toward privacy, examine their attitude toward the "real name" issue with which they proved their naivete, foolishness, God complexes, and insensitivity simultaneously, see Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google, Privacy, and Anonymity.

As you can see, between our government and its accomplices Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, privacy is in serious jeopardy. And that all got much worse when we found out about the government spying on its citizens and Obama getting caught lying about it. Thank the brave hero Edward Snowden for revealing this invasion of privacy to the public. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. See Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden.

Heroic NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has demonstrated the type of courage and wisdom we all need to aspire to
Heroic NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has demonstrated the type of courage and wisdom we all need to aspire to


And our rights have been diminishing alarmingly at the same time we've all become objects of surveillance by the national security state. We're "free" to throw away our computers so our emails and searches and viewing habits are no longer the NSA's playthings, and we're free NOT to protest or demonstrate so we don't end up on watch lists and even on no-fly lists. We're free NOT to drive around or walk around the streets where Big Brother's cameras watch our every move. So with all these "freedoms," why do we not FEEL more free?

Security cameras watch you everywhere—apparently not only Santa is checking whether you're naughty or nice
Security cameras watch you everywhere—apparently not only Santa is checking whether you're naughty or nice

Security cameras, surveillance of your financial transactions, radio frequency spy chips hidden in consumer products, tracking of your Internet searches, and eavesdropping on your e-mail and phone calls. Without your knowledge or consent, every aspect of your life is observed and recorded. But who is watching the watchers?

By 2008, the idea of communications privacy in the United States had literally become a joke—our government watches your every move
By 2008, the idea of communications privacy in the United States had literally become a joke—our government watches your every move


Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!
Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!

There Is Real News, Fake News, Alternative Facts, Big Brother, and Trumpspeak

Trump's job—always the rebel—is to change our news by changing news reports to match with the new truth as decided by Trump. All news not jibing with the new truth of Trumpspeak is declared fake news. In 1984, psychological manipulation occurs in which The Party barrages its subjects with psychological stimuli designed to overwhelm the mind’s capacity for independent thought. Trump declares the truth to be lies and his lies to be truth and the end result is the media and the public focused on Trump most of the time, which he loves. As May West used to say, "call me anything—but call me often." In 1984, there are omnipresent signs reading “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU,” and in Trumpworld, there is omnipresent surveillance by cameras and surveillance of emails, calls, searches, social media, etc.

Since we've all had thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform since Trump assumed the Trump-fantasized Trumpthrone, we're all guilty of thoughtcrimes
Since we've all had thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform since Trump assumed the Trump-fantasized Trumpthrone, we're all guilty of thoughtcrimes


Since all U.S. citizens have had thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform since Trump ascended the Trump-fantasized Trumpthrone, we're all guilty of thoughtcrimes
Since all U.S. citizens have had thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform since Trump assumed the Trump-fantasized Trumpthrone, we're all guilty of thoughtcrimes

We're in the post-truth era of fake news and alternative facts. The problem is, there is no such thing as alternative facts in this universe. Some of the highest officials in the country are saying things that we know are true are not true, and they are saying that they have 'alternative facts.' That’s just the type of Orwellian doubletalk that we should all be afraid of. The only way the administration officials could have alternative facts is if they have somehow located a door to a parallel universe where the crooked politician here is not crooked there but the demagogue here is a great statesman with no sign of demagoguery there and every fact is an alternative fact.

The only way the administration officials could have alternative facts is if they have somehow located a door to a parallel universe
The only way the administration officials could have alternative facts is if they have somehow located a door to a parallel universe


Fake news is everywhere, and it's fooling many. Google and Facebook aren't purposely spreading it, but their accidental collaboration is inevitable and real
Fake news is everywhere, and it's fooling many. Google and Facebook aren't purposely spreading it, but their accidental collaboration is inevitable and real

All Major Social Networks Offer Resource Guides for Families and Parents

Facebook and Twitter Icons
Facebook and Twitter Icons

Kids need to be warned by their parents before they go online what the dangers are, like cyberbullying, scams, malware, texting issues, predators, protecting their privacy. And it must be emphasized that much of what appears online tends to stay there forever, which can seriously jeopardize future job prospects and college acceptance.

"All major social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Google+ offer resource guides for families and parents, which include explanations of the services, descriptions of how to use key features, and specific discussion topics for adults and kids. Examples include:

Facebook Family Safety Center - Facebook safety page featuring broad overviews as well as detailed categories for teachers, teens, parents and law enforcement.

Google Family Safety Channel - Videos from Google on helping to keep kids safe online.

Twitter Safety Tips for Parents - Twitter Basics page designed for parents to help answer questions about aspects of teen safety for users of the service." (Source: Social Media Training for Kids: A 60-Minute Class Workshop, Scott Steinberg, Huffington Post)