By Elizabeth Makarewicz
Three and a half years ago, on my first day of classes at Beloit, my father emailed me a link to an article delineating the shared traits of my generation—it was similar to a more effective Mindset List. According to this article, whose source I’ve unfortunately forgotten, my generation was entering college with access to more resources than any previous generation. The Internet has provided us the ability to research anything, anywhere, anytime. Dad was amazed and enthused by the educational world suddenly available to his daughter. I distinctly remember that at the time I received his email there were no less than 12 tabs open in my browser.
But is our generation actually entering adulthood better equipped than generations past? The information is there, but how much of it are we actually able to process? Every day I review dozens of news articles spanning politics, natural disasters, war and conflict. I browse job postings, blogs, music, and I read correspondences with professors, friends, family. The instant gratification of the Internet offers endless opportunity for exploration. However, the more time I spend darting from page to page, the less time I spend delving deeper. What I once praised for its efficiency I now doubt for its lack of profundity.
For those able to process large amounts of information in a short period of time, the Internet is glorious. I am not one of those people. As a high school student, blissfully free of a laptop, my mind wandered slowly and ponderously through novels, journal entries, and hours of piano practice; I was not such an aggressive consumer of information. Now I possess a mind that does not think unless thoroughly provoked—often by too much espresso drank late in the afternoon. The rest of my hours are spent trudging through requisite Internet checkpoints: email, news, music, homework, repeat. I fear that one day the great marker of intelligence will become the ability to spew forth names and dates. Instead of pursuing knowledge for the sake of progress, we will instead rely on a series of formulas generated to garner us the highest amount of admiration.
New technologies allow us to perfect something we’ve always been good at: promoting ourselves. Protesters in the Wisconsin State Capitol shouted, “Show me what democracy looks like!” The response: “This is what democracy looks like!” What does democracy really look like? A sea of protesters texting photos of Jesse Jackson and Tammy Baldwin to friends and family, the messages reading, “Guess who I saw at the capitol?!” Instead of sharing energy, the texter isolates him/herself from the crowd. Though the messages certainly help to spread the movement, and the capitol building was certainly not lacking energy, the messages serve to promote the texters’ self-identities as politically aware, therefore relevant, beings. But which is more prominent, the ideas behind the movement, or the texters’ inflated sense of self-importance?
I’ve exaggerated quite a bit, especially with the gross romanticization of my youthful mind, but I hope my concerns have been voiced clearly. Allow yourself the time to digest information, take pride and pleasure in the work you do, and share your thoughts with others—via Facebook or text messages if you prefer, but real, live conversation will make you and your companions feel better. Our world is in need of bonds stronger than Facebook relationships and wimpy status updates.