Technology defines our generation

By Molly Brown

Contributing Writer

Did you ever hear your parents or older adults say something like, “Your generation doesn’t understand,” or “Well, when I was your age …” ? But what exactly do they mean by that? What is our generation? Though the majority of the students on campus grew up during the 1990s, is that our label for posterity? The 1990s were very different than the 2000s and now the following decade is even more dissimilar. Although our elders may bemoan “our generation,” is ours really any different from when they were young adults facing their own parents’ generations? I feel at the heart of the matter lies the fact that we are the first generation of the technology boom, which has shaped us—for better and perhaps for worse—as well as the present culture.

Do you realize that we will be able to say to our children, “I remember when DVDs came out,” let alone Blu-ray and 3D and whatever the next big thing is. This technological boom is not unique to the VHS to DVD revolution. What about cassette tapes to CDs, and CDs to iPods and MP3 players? Through the advent of satellite radio and services like Pandora and Netflix, the ability to stream media has become more valued than owning such media. So much for books; we have e-readers, tablets instead of desktops and cellphones to replace land lines. And we mustn’t forget the greatest game-changer of all: the Internet.

The Internet has supplied immediate access to information, providing immediate gratification akin to what the microwave did in lieu of the oven in the culinary world of the late 1960s. Most of us cannot think of life without such advances. Email and instant messaging brought the revolution of communication, making it possible to communicate within seconds instead of mailing a letter and waiting days for a reply. Then came social networking: Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, which, in the same vein of email, allow you to be connected at all times with your friends and family.

All of these technologies are inherently as good as the intent behind their creation. I feel, though, that the negatives associated with such technologies are being used to characterize our generation in lieu of their more positive ones. For example, the social networking culture has made it possible to share every minute of every day with others, and some people do just that. The barrage of status updates on Facebook regarding going for a run, eating too much at dinner or even going to the bathroom all do not need to be shared with every one of your Facebook friends. The status updates and the common cellphone-in-bathroom pictures, often accompanied with a duck-like face and a caption reading, “My new outfit!!!!!!” all seek to glorify the mundane, to make extraordinary of the ordinary. Twitter, even more so than Facebook, has people constantly glued to their phones, following celebrities’ every move.  Before Twitter, you would have received a restraining order for doing that type of thing. Now, such actions are considered normal.

Thus, our generation has immediate access to information, from their friends’ happenings at last night’s party to scholarly research and factual data. But it’s the immediate accessibility that has made a negative impact on our technology-fueled generation, such as the whole cyber-bullying issue. This immediate access has shortened our cumulative attention spans in other areas of life outside the Internet. Movie run times are shorter now than they used to be. More and more children have trouble reading longer books than they used to, or would rather watch the movie version. Is everything eventually going to be told in the Twitter-inflicted limit of 140 characters? Imagine English class. Hamlet might be shortened to “I’m sad. Dad’s dead. Uncle did it. Mom, why? To be or not to be. Sorry Polonius. Ophelia, watch out for that river. Laertes cheated. Dead.” And with these social networking addictions some have, the use of cell phones to update statuses and tweets during public performances, such as concerts, movies and live shows is increasingly common and highly distracting to others who go to enjoy the show. This phenomenon was evidenced by the widely-publicized incident at a New York Philharmonic concert in mid-January, where a cellphone went off and the conductor stopped the performance to ask the individual to turn it off.

But what of the good our generation has done with technology? Technology has created whole new ways of music production and art creation. Sampling, though controversial, has led to ingenious creations that have come to characterize much of current music. Using various technologies has led to new mediums or methods of showcasing original content in art, whether it be using projectors to influence light and shadow or entire exhibits that are derived from viewer participation.

Though both positive and negative aspects are associated with our generation of technology boomers, I feel that we have the opportunity to change the world so much for the better if we make choices about the ways we use technology. Our generation does not need to be known as one of #hashtags and @ symbols … it could be known as one that changed the world.

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