The Post-Truth Era – Part 2

Click to read The Post-Truth Era – Part 1.

Image result for fake news meme

This week, our professor Alec, asked us to write about an average day (for us) in terms of reading and making sense of information, media and the world around you by discussing personal strategies for analyzing and validating information? After all, if we are going to teach others (especially our students) about being media literate and about being able to spot fake news, we must first analyze our own practices. 

I am finding more and more that my parents are talking to me about “news” they read on Facebook or wanting to purchase something off of ads they have seen on Facebook.

Signe Wilkinson – Philly.com

Trust me, I have tried to explain filter bubbles to them. I have tried to explain fake news to them. My mom is constantly phoning me asking if I have heard of this make up or fancy lotion that she has seen in an ad on Facebook. When I tell her that I haven’t heard of it before, ask her if she has checked out their website or read reviews and inform her about why she is likely seeing the ad in the first place, she scoffs and rolls her eyes. However, her generation has not previously had to critically examine news in the way that people are required to today. I am constantly emailing articles to her so that she can better understand the algorithms that are controlling what she sees online. She is learning though!

I recently sent this video to her:

Fake News often uses seemingly shocking headlines to get readers to click. This video asks readers to stop, think and check before sharing. This video also lists the variety of items on a new site that you should be skeptical about. I think about many of these items as I scroll through news articles daily.

Like most people, I receive much of my news through social media sites, in particular through Twitter. My first line of defense is looking at the web address. If it is an opinion piece I am looking at, I am a little more lenient because many opinion pieces I read are from personal blogs. However, if it is news I am looking for, I want a web address that I am familiar with like CBC. I have friends on Facebook that post “news” articles from the most bizarre web addresses and I never click if it doesn’t look like a legitimate web address. I also roll my eyes at them for posting without being thorough. I’d say my thoughts coincide with my classmate Kelsie, as she talks about not knowing what to say when other post obvious misinformation on Facebook. I often end up just scrolling past.

With Ideas from the video I posted earlier in this blog combined with a list of critical questions in my mind (similar to the ones in my classmate, Luke’s blog post A Day in the Life of a Media Consumer), I set out to explore my daily intake of news.

If I read something that seems a bit fishy I often see if I can corroborate one news story with another. I also always check the date and the source of the information. I often (but not always) check the background of the author to see what else they have written and if they are writing for/working for a reliable source.

One new idea that I am now becoming cognizant of is circular reporting which makes it more difficult for people to corroborate their news stories with others. Check out this video to understand how circular reporting works and how it creates an fertile environment for the spread of false information.

Recently, I have also learned about websites like Snopes.com and FactChecker which I will be starting to use now that I am aware of them!

What personal strategies do you use for navigating the (mis)information you see online?

 

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The Post-Truth Era – Part 1

Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 was post-truth as defined as “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less  influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

This week’s class discussion focused on the new and emerging challenges of literacy in a fake news world or if you will, a post-truth world. Many of my classmate’s presentations this week discussed how fake news spreads rampantly compared to factual articles and that fake news stories tend to have some sort of flair or novelty, thus appealing to the emotions and personal beliefs of their readers.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, it isn’t just a big deal for journalism, fake news is attacking the foundations of democracy by hacking into the human psyche in a way that has not been done before. Fake news is eroding epistemological and ontological values and understandings in humanity’s worldviews. In his article How the Business of the Digital Age Threatens Democracy , Aiden White (2017) references the BBC’s Grand Challenges for the 21st Century where many experts “named the breakdown of trusted information sources as a primary threat” in the 21st century.

Aiden White (2017) writes about the business model of the digital age,

“Using sophisticated algorithms, bots and turbo-charged distribution systems and fed by limitless databanks providing personal access to millions of subscribers, this business model thrives on “viral information” that can deliver enough clicks to trigger digital advertising. It matters not whether information is true or honest or whether it has public purpose; what counts is that it is provocative and stimulating enough to attract attention. Digital robots are useful but they can’t be encoded with ethical and moral values. Clearly, the best people to handle ethical questions regarding online content are sentient human beings, however the digital business model eschews any significant role for journalists and editors to do this work. The development of business models driven by algorithms which put clicks before content has created a new culture of communications in which truth and honesty is obscured by fake news, bigotry and malicious lies; and it legitimises a political space that encourages ignorance, uncertainty and fear in the minds of voters. These realities raise bigger questions about fake news that not only concern the future of journalism but also the nature of democracy itself”.

It is a big job then, for parents and teachers to tackle the big business of the digital age. Anthony Golding (2007) in Fact or Fiction: Fake News and Its Impact on Education writes that “Students armed with a positive skepticism of fake news can become change agents rather than victims”. In The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News the author states “falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories”. In all elementary classrooms, reading comprehension is a big deal. But in this “post-truth” world, simply understanding what we read is not enough. Young people must be taught the necessary skills for not just understanding what they read but being able to interpret the validity, quality and credibility of the sources they read. They must be able to analyze the difference between real and mis-information.

Adam Zyglis / The Buffalo News (CagleCartoons.com 2016)

So, where do we start?

In Jaimie and Jocelyn’s vlog, they discuss a video called The Problem with Fake News on the 5 Cs of Critical Consuming (context, credibility, construction, corroboration and compare).

The video argues (and I agree) that critical thinking citizens are good for democracy and democracy is good for everyone. Jaimie and Jocelyn also included this infographic to help teachers, parents and students begin to spot fake news:

Last week on Twitter and in our EC&I832 Google+ Community, I posed this question:

My students are too young to analyze most news articles because it is above their current reading ability but I would like the opportunity to incorporate this topic into our discussions at school.

My friends and classmates came back with the following ideas/resources:

Other ideas welcome!

Media Literacy and Beyond!

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Wow! I learned so much from my EC&I832 classmates this week on media literacy. This topic fits well with an earlier debate in our class about the concept of digital natives. For further discussion on this topic, click here.

Generation Z which includes those born anywhere from the mid-90s to early 2000s. This crew is often lumped together under the title of Digital Natives. The concept of Digital Natives is frequently contested because it operates under the assumption that simply being born in that era somehow magically grants those young people with the “innate” gift of using, manipulating, and understanding technology. This is a BIG assumption to make. Children of Generation Z are part of a generation that won’t recall a time when the Internet did not exist. True. They are part of a generation with the most ground-breaking technological advancements. True. Although, so was every other generation before them at one point in time. They have technology at their fingertips and have been exposed to technology or portrayed on social media likely before they were even born. But does all this make them skilled users of the technology that is placed in their hands at increasingly younger ages? No.

I imagine that when the telephone was invented, the youth of that generation were using it more frequently. I imagine the same thing happened when the automobile was invented and frankly with all other major technological advances as well. It only makes sense that the younger people of this generation are quickly acquiring skills to be computer literate because they have been exposed to digitization for their entire lives.

But, as my classmate Dani points out in her vlog, digital literacy and computer literacy are not the same thing. She claims, it is not enough to be able to work with the programs (computer literacy) but that digital literacy requires critical thinking, awareness of behavioural standards (eg. Ribble’s Netiquette) and understanding of the social issues created by technology.

Most of the content catalysts this week first discussed the definition of literacy which is the ability to read and write or to have understanding in a specific field of knowledge. When we think about learning to read, kids need to be able to decode words, use clues to interpret meaning, understand the author’s purpose, among a variety of other skills. These too, apply to the relatively new concept of media literacy. As my classmate Nina describes in her vlog, media literacy helps students understand how words produce meaning and in turn, how people interpret these words which allows them to organize and construct their reality.

[By the way, media literacy seems like it should be a topic for the younger generation but I think it is just as important for my generation and people older than me to learn about digital citizenship and media literacy too. This learning is relevant for all ages! For the Generation X group to learn about it because most people in Gen X were teenagers and young adults when social media truly came onto the scene in the general public. Because it was so new, there wasn’t teachers and adults to help the Gen X crew navigate this new type of media.]

Ok, so what is digital or media literacy then? Well, Mike Ribble defines it in the following way:

This video also describes that while we are increasingly using media as a source of learning and information gathering, few people understand how it affects us and our society:

Media literacy is about the intersection of skepticism (as Erin explains in her vlog) and the act of deconstruction (shout out to philosopher Jacques Derrida on this one!) which meanings critically analyzing the relationship between the text itself (whatever media that may be) and the message (received, perceived and often replicated in some way) by the consumer of the media. Erin talked about the first line of defense in media literacy is a person who thinks before they click and that thinking comes from questioning.

In Media Literacy in the 21st Century, the presenter claims that media is hypnotizing; it is a construction and creatively and methodically captures our attention (in positive and negative ways). Teaching kids about their digital world through media literacy has the power to break that hypnosis. My classmate Jacque, warns in her vlog about “filter bubbles” which are personalized algorithms that allow the media you see to be curated to what the algorithm “thinks” you want to see. In Beware of Online “Filter Bubbles”, Eli Pariser suggests that algorithms are beginning to be the “gatekeepers” of our individual worlds and the problem is that they don’t have the same kind of human ethics or empathy that are required to do the job they do.
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In his vlog, my classmate Luke discusses an important quote. This quote is by Alvin Toddler who said “movers and shakes will not be those who can read and write but those who can learn, unlearn and relearn”. In a weird coincidence, on the same day I was watching his vlog, I was also scrolling through some old tweets and this Tweet popped up from 2012 (great minds think alike!).

The definition of literacy is constantly changing and teachers need to be at the forefront of that change. Teachers need to be the movers and shakers for their students. To guide teachers, Luke brought up was a list of questions to use when critically examining media (other catalysts from this week brought up similar questions):

  1. Who created this message?Image result for media literacy meme
  2. What creative techniques were used to grab my attention? (how did they hypnotize me?)
  3. How will different people understand this message based on worldview (empathy for minority perspectives)? (We have to do what the algorithms cannot which is use empathy to evaluate media).
  4. What lifestyles, values, points of view are included or emitted in the message? (searching for the story that isn’t being told as much as examining what is being told)
  5. Why is this message being sent?

In school, we are taught to critically analyze in the same way with books and other print media. We need to do the same with digital media. This is part of our changing role as educators.

Do you use these questions personally? Do you use them in your classroom? How do you integrate this teaching into your daily practice?

To conclude, I’d like to share two important messages heard during the content catalyst presentations/readings this week. First is a quote that Luke put in his vlog: “Today’s media allows the most hateful and most beautiful voices to be heard like never before”. Media literacy is about sifting through those voices in personally and collectively meaningful ways. Finally, in Parisers Beware of Online “Filter Bubbles”, he suggests “We need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives”. Media literacy allows us to use the Internet for the power of good, in the way we all dream it to be.

Start by Having an Honest Conversation with Yourself

A Side Note to Start

For some descriptions of digital identity followed by a social activism perspective on digital identity, check out my video “How do we approach the concept of identity in a digital and networked world?

Jumping In

Common Sense Media’s article “How to Have Honest Conversations About Social Media with Students” suggests that you need to start by having an honest conversation with yourself. So here it goes…

I would consider myself to be a Millennial. I remember a time when we didn’t have a computer in our house. I remember the first computer we got. I remember sitting through the incessant buzzing tune of a dial-up connection. I remember my dad building an office with a counter big enough to hold two desktop computers. Trust me, it was a big counter because of all the “stuff’ or hardware that came along with owning two desktop computers. Having two computers in one room meant having a friend over to chat on MSN at the same time, in the same room. My friends and I nostalgically reminisce about those times. I remember visiting the computer lab in my school to practice typing and other very basic software tools.

I remember opening my Christmas present in grade 9 (a Motorola flip phone). However, this was the second gift I had opened. My parents tried to fool me by wrapping up their

1980s brick-style cellphone. A joke I did not find very funny since I’d been asking for a cellphone for a long time. It was so awesome to text in T9 and take extremely grainy photos with a phone. Eventually I graduated to a Blackberry Pearl with a roller ball that need constant replacement which was fine because I could easily order several of these cheaply on eBay. Later in high school I receive the earliest versions of the iPhone.

I remember getting my own laptop for my grade twelve graduation, my very first iPad and as I write this blog post at my kitchen table, I am surrounded by two iPads, two laptops and my cellphone of which three of these screens are allowing me to do my university homework in an efficient and connected way.

The level of technology and personal devices has advanced so rapidly in the last twenty years. My parents, also new to this technology were excited to try out each new device. They had no idea about digital citizenship or digital responsibility because it was not something they had grown up with and therefore, had nothing to reference as this technology became integrated into my life.

I decided to start the exploration of my own digital identity by looking back to when I signed up for Facebook in 2007. This was the first step in having an honest conversation with myself about social media: As a teenager and young adult, I was not an informed digital citizen. Because Messenger wasn’t introduced then, most of the messages to and from friends were posted on their wall. My experience was similar to the flashback experienced by TED speaker referenced in my classmate Megan’s vlog. As the years have passed, I have tried deleting many of those posts and also prompt my friends to do the same. Reading through those posts, it is clear as high school students, no one was talking to my friends and I about the “grandma rule” or our digital identity because it was so new to the world. We were the guinea pigs,  with our uninformed teenage brains, trying to navigate our way through this new, interesting communication platform. It was a tool our parents didn’t know about and because of that, my friends and I weren’t really thinking about what we posted and who was reading it. Nor did we have a sense of the permanency of it. Now, I am constantly deleting old posts that pop up on my Facebook memories and thinking to myself : Why did I post that? Not because these posts were inappropriate, but more so because they were not helpful, inspiring or necessary. In other words, these posts back and forth between my friends and I were kind of silly, not necessary to be posted online and rather could have been saved for in-person communication as high schoolers.

As I reflect on my own digital identity, I realize that my education about digital citizenship and identity has been relatively non-existent until the past few years. I was unaware of how apps I was using archived data and did not think of the longevity of my digital interactions as a teenager. These are two key elements of digital citizenship as explained by my classmates Kelsie and Krista in their video on the importance of digital citizenship.

In recent years, I have been much more cautious and conscious about what I post online. Reminding myself of this important poster:

Another important reminder is that the answer to social media concerns is not to not post. Rather to fill the internet with positive images of yourself as Dr. Couros discusses in his blog post.

Returning to the Common Sense Media article I referenced earlier, I encourage you to look at the reflection questions they have posed as you consider your own social media experiences:

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The idea here is that before we can talk to students about responsible social media use and the curation of one’s digital identity, we need to have the same conversation with ourselves.

If you are a Millennial like me, how might you have answered this question as a teenager compared to how you answer now, as an adult?

The Future is Here – Are We Ready for It?

This week Alec posed the question, “what sort of world are we preparing students for?”  This question really digs deep into the purpose of education. What are we doing as teachers in the classroom? Are we preparing students for a career several years down the road? Are we teaching them to explore their current world through inquiry? Are we focused on raising adults or focused on kids current interests? For me, the answer is a combination of all of these things.

When we think about the world we are preparing students for it is a world we largely have no idea about. Especially as a teacher of young elementary students, their future is quite distant. Technology and the world around us is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to predict what their future will look like. To help me think about this in a more in-depth way, I read the articles 9 Things That Will Shape the Future of Education and 2020 Future Work Skills. This latter document lists projected skills people will need to be successful in the future. These skills include: sense making, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, new-media literacy, transdiciplinarity, design mindset, cognitive load management, and virtual collaboration.

Sense making is the ability to find deeper meaning in a variety of texts/medias. In my classroom we talk about surface ideas and deep ideas using imagery of the iceberg at the top of the water versus what is below. Students need to be able first to make those literal, surface connections of what they are learning about but also be able to dig deeper. Part of the digging deeper is in making connections (to self, other texts/medias and the world) and the ability to make connections comes from students experiences and exposure to the world. Being a so called “digital native” doesn’t automatically give children the experiences they need, adults must help curate the vast range of experiences children require to be skillful sense-makers.

Social Intelligence is the ability to connect deeply with others and be able to sense and stimulate reactions. When I think about the students who are in front of gaming systems all weekend long, I strongly feel that they lack this skill when they come to school. Some argue that this is where students are making the friends that they don’t find at school, but there is still significant value in face-to-face interaction, in conversational skills, and understanding how others react to your communications and actions.

Novel and adaptive thinking, design mindset, new media literacy, cognitive load management and computational thinking are inextricably linked. Students need to be able to consume and analyze a large amount of information and data to determine what is and is not useful to them. With the information they are given they need to be able to Create. This is where multiple literacies, opportunity for play and makerspace are so important.

Cross-cultural competency and virtual collaboration are important as we think about what education “looks” like in the future. Classrooms without walls and borders come to my mind. We are no longer confined to the walls around us. Our EC&I832 course is a perfect example of how these skills can be lived out in an education setting. The idea of “global” has many implications in regard to these two skills.

I have briefly touched on each of these skills for future. What I find however is that none of these skills is far-fetched or something that we are incapable of teaching. I like how my classmate Dani, said it. As a teacher, “it my duty as a teacher to be doing more to ensure my kiddos leave me as critical thinkers, multi-taskers, digitally literate, cultural responsive citizens”. In fact, many of these skills are being taught by parents and teachers that I personally know. Is there work to be done? Yes, certainly. My classmate Nicole suggests that this is the case in her blog as well. However, we are already on our way. Teachers too, need to possess these important skills if they are to teach about them. The students in my classroom will need these skills in the future which means that we need to be teaching them now. Are we ready for it?

To conclude, I will comment on what I think is a major weakness in the 2020 Future Work Skills document. This document is bright, colourful, and full of excellent suggestions for what the future will look like. However, it also has an air of exclusivity. I attended a private high school for grade 9-12 and I can certainly imagine how my high school classmates would achieve these skills and many are living out these skills in their current work places. However, I have also spent some time teaching students whose socio-economic status and opportunity is not equal to my high school classmates. The skills suggested in this document are certainly attainable if students have access to the tools they need to achieve them.This issue can be referred to as the participation gap.  To fill in the important information missing from the 2020 Future Work Skills document, the 2017 K12 Horizon Report and Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century do an excellent job of highlighting inequalities as we think about our students of the future. Three key problems are highlighted below from the Confronting Challenges to Participatory Culture document:

“The Participation Gap — the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.
The Transparency Problem — The challenges young people face in learning to see
clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.
The Ethics Challenge — The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants”.

The future can be bright and colourful, like the document suggestions but it is important we address these structural and ethical concerns in a timely manner if all students are to have equal opportunity to gain these important skills.

The Internet is Not the Problem

During our last class session, as Dr. Couros presented various critiques of technology through the ages we are reminded that every new technology brings what Devorah Heitner calls a cycle of anxiety. A NY Times columnist writes “Before the Internet, television, telephones and automobiles all had their turn at being bashed by people afraid of social changes wrought by new technologies”. My classmate Logan illustrates this point further in his post “Stop Villainizing the Internet”.  The internet, in a techno-dystopian manner, is constantly “blamed” for the demise of society and especially of today’s youth. Blame is incorrectly placed onto the thing itself (the internet) rather than placing accountability on its users (it’s visitors and residents).

Part of our assignment this week was to view the videos Do “Digital Natives” Exist? and Visitors and Residents which provide a critique and alternative to Mark Prensky’s “Digital Native vs. Digital Immigrant” binary argument. In critique of Prensky, I think it is important to understand that just because children and youth are born in to the Digital Age and may know how to use technology more adeptly than the previous generations (a privileged perspective), there are challenges in raising children to be caring digital citizens. This video by Devorah Heitner titled “The Challenges of Raising a Digital Native” raises some important points and is an excellent watch. Heitner discusses parents fears and anxieties of raising children in the Digital Age and how parents want to “spy on” and “catch” their child “doing something bad” on the internet. There is a very real parental fear that because their children are members of the Digital Age that they will automatically be susceptible to the evils of the Internet. This fear can be legitimate if young people do not have guidance.

Heitner suggests two important ideas. First, that just because children are tech savvy, doesn’t mean they have the tools to create a positive digital footprint or navigate the world of social media with kindness and caring. Second, that before parents try to catch their kids doing something wrong, Heitner asks “have we done a good enough job of modelling the right thing?” Students may be more tech savvy, but they still require guidance and a significant part of that guidance is educating students about empathy. There is immense power in positive digital sharing but the role of the parents and educators remains to guide students in bringing an element of humanity into their online behaviour.

 

 

The Jurgenson Effect: A New Year’s Resolution Ruiner

This New Year’s season I heard many people talk about their resolution being to scroll

map

Here is me using a real life map 🙂

less. That is, to spend less time scrolling through social media sites or apps in favour of spending more time IRL. This sounded like an excellent idea to me as I often find myself trying to disconnect.

As Nathan Jurgenson (2012) tells us in his article The IRL Fetish, “Having to navigate without a maps app, eating a delicious lunch and not being able to post a photograph, having a witty thought without being able to tweet forces reflection on how different our modern lives really are”. In fact, I recently had to use a map (yes…a paper map that you unfold and have to figure out the actual directions yourself!) while in Phoenix over the winter holiday. We had to turn off our data which meant not being able to use Google Maps to take us from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and on to Las Vegas. I have to admit it was a little weird (and also unnerving!) to map out our own route (what if we got lost?!). Of course, even though I didn’t have access to data, I still took a photo (three to be exact) so that I could post this bizarre feat (using a real life map) into my Snapchat story once we reached the hotel and could turn on the wifi.

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Selfie from the Larch Valley Trail @ Moraine Lake

Earlier this fall, I hiked the Larch Valley Trail which is out of service area but my phone was still in my backpack to document the journey. Now, I am all about documenting life experiences as I explained my love of photography in my introductory post. But I also thought I was all about being unplugged and disconnected and getting in touch with nature. For one week each summer my family heads up to Northern Saskatchewan where we are isolated and without service. Each year it is a breath of fresh air (no pun intended!) to be disconnected for that period of time. However, this week Jurgenson has me reconsidering my approach a little. Jurgenson (2012) argues “Twitter lips and Instagram eyes: Social media is part of ourselves”. It is quite literally an extension of our own bodies into a digital space. The dichotomy of online and offline becomes a blurry mess: “The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability…time spent not looking at Facebook becomes the status updates and photos we will post later” (Jurgenson, 2012). Jurgenson (2012) argues “we’ve never cherished being alone, valued introspection, and treasured information disconnection more than we do now”. Even though the IRL fetish exists, he counters the obsession by indicating society’s desperate cry to be unplugged is create by the fact that we are so connected. As I reconsidered my “disconnected time” this past year, I realize that even though I was not connected at the time, there was time spent planning and preparing photographs that could later be posted to my social media pages. I now feel like a bit of a IRL fetish fraud.

We can further our understanding of a lack of an online/offline dichotomy as we explore Michael Wesch’s 2009 article “Youtube and You” in which he examines the complex relationship between Youtubers and their audiences. One ironic example lies in this following video (which I actually thoroughly enjoy!). The vlogger is suggesting that people can and should spend more time alone. But this author/vlogger is not alone. The video has been viewed more than 8 million times. As vloggers create in an environment of seeming loneliness, the audience feedback and views indicate a complex relationship that holds significant potential for human connection.

So, to truly be unplugged, do we need to disassociate the experience from the realm of possibly posting online later? While out enjoying “real life”, do we need to stop and think about photographing an experience simply for our own viewing pleasure? Or do we just need to embrace the fact, as Jurgenson (2012) argues, that we are inexplicably connected, even when we are disconnected? I think these ideas are something I will tangle with throughout the course of the term and have to reconsider during my Summary of Learning or future blog post. After reading Jana‘s post, I know I am not the only one grappling with these new understandings.

Either way, I suppose I will need to rethink my New Years resolutions.

What do you think? How can we disconnect? or are we so enmeshed in technology that we are unable to truly disconnect?