It is undeniable that in the past 20 years, technology especially computers and the internet have radically altered the way that western society have lived their lives. Computers have evolved beyond simple office machines to an essential part of the 21st century household. From writing and researching papers to watching movies and playing movies, computers have made themselves an essential part of the way we live our lives. Moreover, information communications technology has made the world smaller than ever before. The Internet, from its beginnings as a defense computer network has transformed the way we communicate, allowing us to chat with our friends using the many instant messaging services or work with our colleagues through email and even serve as a channel by which we obtain music and TV shows.
However, let us try to examine further, seeing not only how technology serves us but rather how technology affects us. While it is apparent that life is easier with our present technology, we have to ask the question, has technology made life better? For the youth, technology seems to have woven itself to become an essential part of their lives, with some even calling the youth of today as “The Internet Generation”. For the most part, it is the youth that buy the ipods and use the instant messaging services and post their profiles on myspace. But then we have to ask the question: could it be possible that technology is changing society too fast? How will technology change and shape the behavior of the so-called Internet Generation?
For one thing, technology has given rise to new opportunities for the youth. Martha Irvine, in her article titled Youth Adopt, Drive Technological Advances, she shows how the youth’s techonolgy savvy attitude has given them a sort of technological power unheard of in the previous years. This technological power could be seen in the myriad of things that the youth could do with technology, from using it to find a job to finding seed capital for starting and promoting their own business – technology has allowed the youth to do so many things that their parents weren’t able to. Additionally, the youth don’t only use technology for doing things faster and better, the internet has also given the youth a new avenue to figure out and realize who they are. The web’s anonymity has given the youth an open avenue to discuss things that they could not discuss openly with their peers. From providing places where one could ask for advice for his or her problems in anonymity to finding a place to discuss traditionally taboo subjects such as suicide, depression and eating disorders. However, on the flip side of things, the anonymity of the web has also opened up newer avenues for harming people – from online rumor spreading to sexual predators and frauds perpetuated in the anonymity of cyberspace.
While technology has empowered the youth by altering the way that the youth conduct their daily lives, the web could also be seen as depriving them of the “real world” experiences which help them build character. Brent Staples gave the perfect example in his article What Adolescents Miss When We Let Them Grow Up In Cyberspace. In the article, he talked about how when he was growing up, he was forced to prove his worth as a man for the very first time. He had to prove his worth to the strict father of a girl he was wooing. The father would watch his every move for months while he was at the girl’s house. As a boy, the father was the first adult outside of his family that Brent had to convince of his being a good person. Brent says that this experience was a critical step in growing up. However, due to technology, when wooing the same girl today, he could probably avoid any contact with her father by the use of email, chat or instant messaging.
Technology has removed a lot of the social interactions that the previous generations have taken for granted. In a way, while email, chat rooms and instant messaging have brought the youth together, it has also kept them more isolated from each other. Oftentimes, the youth lose out on actual face to face interactions, preferring to interact with their peers in the lonely confines of their own rooms. Are the social interactions over a computer and telephone connection as fulfilling and emotionally deep as talking face to face with actual friends you know by name and face?
One could also consider that technology in a way has become the boss of the youth, instead of the other way around. Around the country, career people are finding their jobs increasingly able to follow them home through email, fax and the internet. However, it is the youth that will have to bear the full burden of technology. It is the youth that grew up with computers telling them to “clean up unused icons in your desktop” or email messages telling them to update their software. Ellen Ullman points out that a successful citizen of the 21st century is a master of multitasking, of many concurrent things smoothly without thought or consciousness. Technology has shaped a world for the youth that is as fast as the Pentium processors, due to this prolonged attention is a luxury that many of the youth are not allowed to have.
I think that as a part of the internet generation that today is a really exciting time to be alive. We are using technology for applications that were unthinkable even 4 or 5 years ago. There is a certain excitement as to what other possibilities engineers could come up for computers and the internet. For me, technology is a blessing for the youth as they are now empowered to do so many things that were difficult or near impossible for their parents. However, it is up to the youth on how they will use this technology, this power. Will the youth use it only for extending their lives into their bedrooms or will they use it for making a new life for their generation is all up to the individuals of the internet generation. I think that as of now, it is too early to say whether technology has been a bane or a boon to the internet generation – that is only a statement to be made in hindsight. However, I could say completely, that technology is opening up a lot of new frontiers for the youth and that it has made it very exciting to be alive.
Irvine, Martha. “Youth Adopt, Drive Technological Advances.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 5, 2004, national edition, 31A.
Staples, Brent. “What Adolescents Miss When We Let Them Grow Up In Cyberspace.” New York Times, May 29, 2004, A24.
Ullman, Ellen. “The Boss in the Machine.” New York Times, February 19, 2005, A29.