In the 20+ years that I have been forcing students to read (i.e., teaching) Fahrenheit 451, the world and the culture have changed enough that many of my original reflection questions no longer lead to productive discussion because the technological elements of them no longer apply. This question, for example, used to focus exclusively on the effects of television. In the early 1990s, the personal computer and the Internet were just becoming widely available; DVDs and HDTV didn't yet exist; music was still available on vinyl and cassette; and no one had ever heard of any iProducts. (Here's 2015 data on technology device ownership. It is interesting to note that most modern surveys don't even ask about TVs anymore, and only 57% of people now consider a television necessary because they can access all the shows they want on other devices.) At that time, it was not uncommon for a majority of students to admit watching an average of five or six hours of television a day. I've noticed in recent years that many students scoff at such silliness, yet these same students will spend even more time staring in fascination into their smart phone screens. Interestingly, Faber's criticism still applies, maybe more so. This is part of the reason I think Fahrenheit 451 is a modern classic: Although the gee-whiz technologies that made it a work of science fiction in the 1950s are now commonplace, the ideas (warnings) contained in the novel are more applicable than ever. This question has therefore been revised to include all media, and it will surely have to be revised again in the near future....
Fahrenheit 451
What's Wrong with Modern Technology and Media?

"...Who has ever torn himself from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in the TV parlor? It grows you any shape it wishes! It is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth. Books can be beaten down with reason. But with all my knowledge and skepticism I have never been able to argue with a one-hundred piece symphony orchestra, full color, three dimensions, and being in and part of those incredible parlors..." (Faber, p. 84).

What's wrong with TV? Computers? Smart phones? Portable music players? Video gaming systems? Tablets...devices...and phones! Oh my! They are inescapable in our society. They serve as our lifeline and our window on the world as well as our primary form of entertainment. Two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone (2015), and all these technologies are having profound effects on society, some positive, many not so. Various modern technologies have been said to cause social isolation, lack of social skills, obesity, depression, poor sleep habits, pollution, increased bullying, lack of privacy, higher level of deceit, warped sense of reality, stress, lack of social/sexual boundaries, constant distraction, neck and head pain, shortened attention span, addictive tendencies, lack of empathy,violence, developmental issues in children, neurosis, loss of hearing and eyesight, and loss of social bonds. There must be something "wrong" with devices that could be blamed for so many social ills. What is it?

Identify some of Faber's concerns. Quote his words from the text. What claims does he make about the "TV parlours" in Fahrenheit 451 that also seem to be true of our modern technologies? Show how these modern technologies illustrate Faber's concerns by providing examples from your own experience and observations. Consider these questions: Is it the technologies themselves that are the problem, or is it the media content? Where do you draw the line between too much media exposure and not enough? Is it reasonable to expect that people in the modern world will never access the Internet, use a smart phone, or watch videos on YouTube? Conversely, is it reasonable to expect that people will put the gadgets away when other human beings are around? Where are we to draw our technological and media boundaries? More importantly, who should decide these things? Many people say, "There's a lot of crap on TV/Internet/Social Media/etc.! Too much bad content!" But as we discussed earlier, not everyone defines "bad" the same way. Is it the existence of "bad" content that is the problem, or is it something else? Develop your ideas in a 1-2 page response.

Other resources
Media Consumption Questionnaire
Media Survey Data

Consider the following:
Do you have a smart phone? If so, what do you use it for? If not, why not?
Where do you charge your phone? How often do you have to charge it?
On average, how many hours a day is your phone in use? What do you use it for?
Do you have a computer with Internet access in your house? Why or why not?
How many hours a day do you have a headphone ("seashell radio") in one or both ears?
Besides movie theaters, how do you watch movies?
What is your primary source of news? How do you know what is going on in the world?
How many televisions are in your house?
How many hours of television do you watch daily?
What are your favorite programs?
How many hours a day is there a television on in your house (even if no one is watching)?
Do you "channel surf"?
Do you ever fight over the remote?

©2005 Wolfman Thompson - All rights reserved.
Last update:04/22/2016
The one before that: 05/03/2005
The one before that: 01/19/2001