Even though I was an English major, I still took two classes in anatomy and physiology in college. In addition to memorizing the names of organs, muscles and processes, deciphering genetics, denaturing proteins and dissecting cats, I learned that your sense of smell helps you taste things.
Got that? Your sense of smell is a really big deal.
Apparently, though, more than a few young people don’t share my enthusiasm for that particular sense.
A recent McCann Worldgroup study surveyed 7,000 people from around the world found that, among other things, a whopping 53% of the 16- to 22-year-olds would give up their sense of smell before giving up a tech device.
I know that youth are “plugged in,” but this study powerfully illustrates how integral technology is for many members of today’s younger generations:
Given a list of things (including cosmetics, their car, their passport, their phone and their sense of smell) and told they could only save two, 53% of those aged 16-22 and 48% of those aged 23-30 would give up their own sense of smell if it meant they could keep an item of technology (most often their phone or laptop). We all know how important technology is to young people, but a willingness to sacrifice one of their human senses to keep it shows just how intrinsic it has become.
Perhaps it’s not all that surprising when you consider that technology represents all the friends you could ever want, all the knowledge you will ever need, and all the entertainment you could desire. For young people, technology is more than a useful tool or an enabler. It is truly their fifth sense.
Youth see technology as Play Doh—something they use in an utterly malleable and instinctive way. Older generations start with ‘what will this box allow me to do?’ Whereas this generation starts with ‘what do I want to do? Where can my imagination take me?’ Technology enables young people to sense the world and make sense of the world. It is this deep relationship with technology that is shaping their attitudes towards community and truth and allowing them to re-imagine justice for a new era.
The phrases “re-imagine justice,” “all the knowledge,” “all the friends you could ever want” and “all the entertainment you could desire” make me shudder a bit when I read other studies about—or see with my own eyes—just how dramatically friendships, entertainment and justice have already been changed by the Internet. Because knowledge, for the record, doesn’t equal wisdom.
Maybe I’m just old. At least, though, I’ll still be able to smell and taste a cinnamon roll and coffee for many mornings to come as I pray that kids today will keep (and come to) all of their senses.