The Thumb Generation Is the cell phone a Friend or Foe?
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Written by Mario Castro G.   
The Thumb Generation Is the cell phone a Friend or Foe?

The use of mobile phones and other technology has made people use their thumbs more and more. These electronic devices have made it necessary for us to rely on the thumb to type, and have thereby once again established the thumb’s high place in the hierarchy of the hand. From the very beginning, when we humans sapiens started to look like we do today, we have used our opposable thumbs for various things, that no other animal can do. From grasping rudimentary tools and weapons, to vote, to show our displeasure, to hitch hiking, the thumb defines us and makes us human. Now of course that isn’t to say that without thumbs we wouldn’t be human, but it sure did help. .

Over the years we have found new uses for the thumb, and in this high-tech age is no exception. The thumb is the preferred tool of 21st - century communication. The younger Japanese generations are often referred to as the oya yubi sedai or the thumb generation. This generation has grown up sending text messages through mobile phones and playing video games on consoles, where the finger that is most used to play the game, is the thumb.

Some researchers have found that young Japanese people, accustomed to using their thumbs to send messages, are now using them to do other tasks like pointing and ringing door bells, traditionally the realm of the index finger. Similarly, the use of cell phones and video game consoles has developed skills in both hands, making the up and coming generations ambidextrous. This change, according to the law of nature, should have taken years or many generations to develop these skills and to incorporate themose into the genome.

However this is not necessarily good news., Some researches have raised concerns about the “cyber teens”, a term coined to describe the youngsters that cannot refrain from excessively using their cell phones and see their mobile as an extension of their body. The popularity of the cell phone is so pervasive among youngsters, that they feel lost whenever they are not carrying their phone.

Japan: Top Thumb(s)

Asian teenagers and especially Japanese youngsters, are topping the list of the “thumb generations”, mostly because these countries were the first ones to introduce internet applications, as well as enabling text messages for cell phones.

It has been estimated that among the 90 million Japanese cell phone owners, an average user can input around 40 to 50 kanji per minute using both thumbs. However some users have been able to input more than 100 characters. Some TV programs have capitalized on this new skill by broadcasting competitions to measure the participant’s thumb skills, in the categories of accuracy, speed and endurance while texting messages.

Some negative consequences have been revealed however by these studies. They highlight the fact that the use of theis cell phone and text messaging, has a direct correlation to the detriment of their communication skills. These “thumb athletes” can send an average of 50 messages per day, with no content whatsoever., The messages simply contain descriptions of their environment or emotions. Thus, they no longer feel the need to interact with others, their communication is superficial and it becomes a mechanical process. This trend is further underpinned by the development of a code language, where shortened words are used instead of the complete words which contributes to the lack of content in text messages.

The cell phone is the first gadget that provides unlimited possibilities for interacting with others. Anytime is a good time to text a message; while commuting on the train, during a coffee break, during class recess or while queuing at the bus stop. But what does this mean for the future of communication? Will we start to talk in short incomplete sentences, or will we eventually loose our ability to speak because we will be hooked into communication devices like the cell phone?

Whatever the case may be, I am sure that in the future we will need to be vilajent in teaching our children and our children’s children, that no matter how close they feel to a person by texting them, nothing can come close to having a face to face conversation and to see the other person smile.



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