Being a participant in the social capacity of the Internet today is not only a required adaptation to our culture, but it is also a form of regeneration of ones mentality.
I remember when I was a kid looking forward to riding my bike around the neighborhood with my friends. On really hot days we would venture to one friends house that had a swimming pool and splash the day away while looking forward to playing kickball on the weekend. I also remember how special I felt as a teenager when that cute boy at the skating rink approached me and asked me to be his partner for the spotlight couple song.
Today, kids look forward to going home and checking their email before they hop into a chat room full of strangers. They can't wait for their buddies that live five hundred miles away to join them in an online gaming event. On really hot days you will find most of them napping after a long hard day of sedentary Internet-ville seduction. They also feel special being approached by that cute boy or girl in that chat room of "who knows if you are actually who you say you are land". Sadly, most families today including the parents spend most of their free time in Cyber land. The reality of the Internet is the fact that it is deteriorating the minds of the youth of our culture and destroying their social, mental and physical capacity to function. It also steals valuable time away from families.
Cell phones have become dinnertime guests, and the world-wide-web has replaced schoolbooks. Sexual predators disguised as rival football players and cheerleaders have become chat room buddies before bedtime. The last thing most kids do before they go into a deep slumber is no longer a prayer or a bedtime story with mom and dad, but a text message to a friend or an email to a complete stranger.
The era of the Internet originated around 1957 and was created for the specific cause to control aspects of military equipment from different locations and give the government advanced control over security aspects, which they called ARPA. (Slevin 28)
Afterwards, it spread like wildfire as a means to communicate with others worldwide. Today, it personifies a magnitude of forms and genres most of which appeal to the youth of America and those that are just beginning to start the social and educational journey of life. However, this chaotic madness has not always been chaotic. Nor had the madness climaxed to the extent of what we see transpiring today.
I remember being in awe of Microsoft Word when I purchased my first computer in 1998. I thought, Oh my goodness I don't have to worry about the word "their" being circled in red again, praise the Lord! Instantly after I said that aloud I thought, "God how in the world are those growing up now going to learn how to spell?" It's fine for those of us who grew up with penmanship and spelling actually incorporated into our English classes to have the ability to use these types of programs, but for those born digitized, not so much. As Langdon Winner states, "What matters is not technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded." (Teich 47)
I can almost guarantee that if the government would truly begin to investigate this troublesome reality America would be shocked. I would bet money if they mandated every high school in America, to randomly pick forty high school students to hand write a three page essay we would be mortified. With their new "short hand text and email" language, they actually spell the same way.
This did not truly dawn on me until about a year ago. Through the juvenile court system I mentor troubled youth. One girl who I have gotten to know very well comes across as being very bright. She has aspiring goals and with the correct motivation and self-esteem I feel she could accomplish great things. Most of the time when we communicate it is through text messaging, where I relentlessly try to decode her messages. I am now aware that all young people and some in their late twenties or early thirties use this new "short hand" which I have yet to catch onto. Not really thinking of that, I decided to give her an assignment because she said she would love to be a writer or maybe someday become a parole officer. One day I took her a brand new notebook and some really nice pens. I told her to write a story that consisted of 1500 words or less. When she was finished she knew I would take her out to buy a new outfit. Low and behold upon reading her finished story, I preternaturally saw William Shakespeare turn in his grave. I think the shock value of the fact that she couldn't spell was less impacting of the fact that she thought she actually could. The history professor from a New York Graduate school could not have summed the reality of this sad fact in a more appropriate manner.
"As with past communications
revolutions-such as print, movies, and television- the information revolution will have both good and bad consequences for society and particularly for education, Gertrude Himmelfarb argues in the following
viewpoint. For example, she points out, computer technology is a boon for research, but the computer's natural speed does not foster the slow, patient thought required for the comprehension of complex ideas. She contends that schoolchildren should still be taught the basic skills of reading, writing, and
arithmetic in order to develop the critical thinking capacity to interpret and understand the high volume of information that will be produced in the future." (Winters 49)
Being a recent victim of time consuming pointless extravaganzas I can rightfully protest the time that people spend on online games. Face book and My Space have become America's number one hot spot. They are great social networking sites but that is not the only factor they bring to the table. They both open a whole slew of time consuming monstrosities. I joined face book to stay in touch with family and friends and soon I was receiving invites to join "farmville", "yoville", "petville" and all the other select online addictions cyber world has to offer. I refused to join any of them until one day I gave in. It got to a point where I realized I was spending almost two hours a day tending to my "fake farm animals and harvesting trees of freshly grown fruit or redecorating my fake house". After I allowed common sense to pile drive me back to reality, I cancelled all of my online identities so that I could once again see what it was like to truly exist in real life. It was quite refreshing if I say so myself.
However, what is not so refreshing is the fact of how many teenagers are bound by online gaming addictions and false realities and identities. One of the books I have been reading called "Born Digital" explains in so much detail the offspring that computers have given birth too and the dark road that awaits them in the near future.
"The increasing power and attractiveness of the Internet for purposes like escape and self-expression is part of the problem for some young people. The Internet's interactive quality leads some Digital Natives to prefer their "second life" to their first. For some, the Internet allows for escape from the frustrations of real life.
Internet use can turn into a coping strategy, especially in the case of online gaming
addictions. Young people who have a preexisting disposition or psychopathology,
such as depression, social anxiety, or substance dependence, are at particular risk.
Some young people become overly focused on their online selves. Research suggests that some may also overgeneralize specific positive events associated with Internet use, which can cause them to develop the belief that only the Internet holds positive experiences for their lives." (Palfrey 188-189)
One such instance of this second life nature is the overwhelming publishing of blogs. Blogs are what you might call an online journal for all of America to read the thoughts of every living and breathing human walking the face of the earth. Andrew Keen states that a new blog is being created every second of every minute of every hour of every day. (Keen 3). The disturbing fact in this is that the same individuals who spell tomorrow night like "2maro nite" write most of the blogs posted. Another disturbing fact is that no one who publishes their opinion is held accountable for what they write. In a land where freedom of speech has become shifting sand for the trained journalist, America has decided to mud slide into an erratic conglomeration of uneducated, opinionated, unaccountable bloggers. Society as we know it today will become an ancient artifact.
"On today's Internet, however, amateurism, rather than expertise, is celebrated, even revered. Today, the OED and the Encyclopedia Britannica, two trusted
reference volumes upon which we have long relied for information, are being replaced by Wikipedia and other user-generated resources. The professional is being replaced by the amateur, the lexicographer by the layperson, the Harvard professor by the unschooled populace." (Keen 37)
With the Internet come the consequences of a socially and physically inadequate generation of society. Much of their time is spent in a technological bubble devoid of real human contact or intellect. Most of the kids you see listening to I-Pods would be the music lovers that would have been working part time at the local music store which has now been shut down because they have instant access online. The girl that you used to see sitting under the tree in the park reading Mark Twains "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is now the girl sitting alone in her bedroom reading a twelve year olds blog about how he ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. That group of kids who used to ride their bikes to the skating rink on the weekend is now the group that wake up late on Saturday morning and sign on to different chat rooms and talk for hours with complete strangers.
Does society shape technology or does technology shape society? This question has been the big discussion throughout history since technology eagerly entered our world. In my opinion I think the answer is right in front of our face and no one can do anything about it. Or can we?
I guess the correct question would be are we going to allow technology to destroy society by hopping on the train to Internetville with the Tech-generation? Or are we going to step up to the plate and accept responsibility as a society for the shape our social and economical state is heading if something is not done?
"As Atlantic Monthly Writer Marshall Poe told me, companies simply can't make
money by providing high-quality content-be it music, movies, or news-for free. "The Internet is a huge moral hazard for people in general," he said, "and it is a huge economic hazard for the serious providers of content." (Keen 118)
As you go about your daily journey keep your eyes open to how you communicate with others on a daily basis. Pay attention to how you learn about recent events and how you listen to the latest music. Observe how you and your family socialize with each other at home. We may not be able to change the social and economical annihilation of the generations to come, but we can definitely look behind our own front door and begin there. As history has proven in the past, it only takes one person to change the whole world.
Keen, Andrew. The Cult of the Amateur How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. New York: Currency, 2007.
Palfrey, John, and Urs Gasser. Born Digital Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic Books, 2008.
Slevin, James. The Internet and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000
Teich, Albert H. Technology and the Future: 11th Edition. Massachusetts: Wadsworth
Winters, Paul A. Opposing Viewpoints Series - The Information Revolution (paperback
edition) (Opposing Viewpoints Series). New York: Greenhaven P, 1998.
My name is Tina Leonard. I have been writing my entire life, but it wasn't until I accepted Christ in 1998 that I began to write for the edification of the body and to bring the rightful Glory to His Kingdom. Feel free to visit my website at www.myspace.com/christisking2.
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Tina, I found your writing while I was researching how we are being affected by the internet. I had used BORN DIGITAL for my paper and you cited many of the same ideas as I did. I enjoyed reading your writing.
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