Obama considered one the country's most savvy social-media political figures in modern-day history was considered a 'crackberry' addict by many throughout the course of his campaign. And while he may have had to relinquish his habit for security reasons once he took office, some think he sees similar types of electronic gadgetry as a form of distraction. Should Steve Jobs be worried?
Obama who often criticizes the press for creating the news versus reporting it told a class of graduating university students at the Hampton University commencement ceremony in Virginia that while "education…can fortify…to meet the tests of time," he believes Americans rely too often on diversion versus substance, allowing the "craziest claims (to) quickly gain traction."
"With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said.
He drew a line between Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and today's challenges.
"What Jefferson recognized... that in the long run, their improbable experiment -- called America -- wouldn't work if its citizens were uninformed, if its citizens were apathetic, if its citizens checked out, and left democracy to those who didn't have the best interests of all the people at heart.
"It could only work if each of us stayed informed and engaged, if we held our government accountable, if we fulfilled the obligations of citizenship."
As with all new technology, there is a fine line between its usefulness and its potential pernicious side effects. What Obama is saying is not new. The same was said about the computer and the Internet when they both first arrived on the scene. While they became the greatest resource for learning and research, when used willfully they also became a tool for the idle, the irresponsible, the salacious and for those that preyed on others. The iPad has the same capability if ever used for those purposes.
The device is not where the fault lies. It's how the device is used for positive or negative outcomes. When Amy-Mae Elliott from Mashable asks the question if these devices are making "problems worse, or is (Obama) finding causation where none exists?" - I don't think neither the device nor Obama are in question. These devices enrich our lives when used as "a tool of empowerment," and I don't think that his words should be taken out of context. His central argument was not so much the device itself as it was how the device can be used to distract, distort and obfuscate.
Obama's been very consistent in criticizing those who continually fall into the trap that our 24/7 media cycle seems to demand… that we offer up arguments that don't (in his words) "always rank all that high on the truth meter."
So with that said, I hope Steve Jobs hasn't sold the farm, just yet!