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Written by Tyler Wetzel on Wednesday, November 13, 2013
People have been sharing ideas since the beginning of time. As technology advances, we have found new and engaging ways to communicate our thoughts with our fellow man. Technology such as the world wide web have propelled us into the age of information. For the first time in history, knowledge has become available to the masses. How we choose to share that information and how our society views those who do is essential to a healthy open-minded society.
With the rise of the internet comes a host of new tools to allow you to share your ideas, worldwide. Through Twitter, Facebook or Youtube you can build an online presence that was previously unattainable. People from around the globe now have access to that content which would have otherwise been private or at least only accessible locally. You could remain anonymous, a mystery.
Social media has perforated every aspect of our lives
As much as we tend to think that our data on these sites is ours, it is not. Whatever you upload onto the net tends to become public unless strictly stated otherwise (e.g. credit card info). Social media has perforated every aspect of our lives, and now with the wide range of devices that can access the web it’s proliferation is like never before. We are faced with a generation of web literate people who may be extremely capable of sharing and creating content but are naive to the greater consequences of a widely internet based community.
I was astounded to realize that the average internet user spends over 40% of their time on the net either on a social media or media/entertainment website. I know this isn’t a new statistic, but I fear we are falling into a trap here. It’s not the time that concerns me. Yes, information has been able to spread rapidly via social media and information dissemination has reached an unprecedented level. What concerns me is the consequences of our internet usage.
A question a friend of mine comes to mind. She asked; Does anyone else miss the pre-smartphone days when you would sit in a restaurant or cafe and see people actually talking to each other; This spurred up quite a discussion with people reminiscing of the good old days when people actually communicated with each other face-to-face. The new age of information is a fascination one, but when kids would rather stream another episode online then go outside and relish in the boredom of childhood then we have a problem. Welcome to the next generation of awkward youths whose perception of reality is formed around media and video games instead of experiences.
This brings up another point. We’ve seen the nation become more and more divided as the political divide widens. Some may say that we are just that much more perceptive of the what is going on around us, but I tend to disagree. The internet is vast and there are communities for every topic or hobby imaginable. You can now find communities to engross yourself in regardless of how strange, small or bizarre the group may be. We flock to those that think similarly to us. It’s only natural, but is this healthy?
To grow as a person you must encounter challenges, trials and tribulations. Only by falling can you pull yourself up and grow as a person. Encountering foreign ideas or people is important for our mental health. Back in the day, the role of a dorm in college was to force you to perhaps intermix with the vast community that may or may not hold your same ideals. This may be uncomfortable at first but you must learn to deal with the reality that not everyone in the world holds your beliefs or ideals. Conflict spurs intelligent debate and ideas. Unfortunately, I fear we are entering a generation that can completely isolate themselves from outside influences that may push them out of their comfort zones.
Encountering foreign ideas or people is important for our mental health.
For example, a friend of mine who was attending the University of Texas in Austin was dead set on finding her roommate online. She meticulously searched for someone who would share her interests. Someone she could talk to easily and not get annoyed at. She wanted to remain in her comfort zone, to limit change. In essence you’re narrowing your chances to experience something new that may lead you down a completely different path.
This brings me back to the internet. We clap and applaud Facebook and other social media outlets for their ability to let us communicate and share ideas. Yes, but whose ideas are you encountering? You like a page or group and next thing you know your entire feed is filled with familiar topics. You have insulated yourself from the world. This extends past social media. Websites you favor are specific to your likes. You are not forced to watch or encounter anything that may make you uncomfortable. Ignorance is bliss. Therefore, you have people who have limited if not skewed views of the world due to their own censorship of material.
Perhaps the volatility of the real world is what makes us human. It’s what helps us relate to one another on a basic level that no social media website can provide. You shall experience heartaches, pain and loss; all of which you will never see on Facebook but will carry with you throughout your life. This is reality and there is no substitute. Just as little girls idolized Barbie we now idolize our internet communities as bastions of similar thought, but maybe stirring things up is more important to your mental development than finding your soul mate online.
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