Commentary

Digital Revolution: Making us More or Less Connected?

I’m slowly realizing I’m becoming an adult. I called the cops on a loud party, I think that’s a sure sign that the crazy shenanigans of the undergraduate years are done.

That said, while I was cursing the partiers for bolting inside once the police came, I was somewhat wishing I could be one of them; disregarding responsibility and throwing all cares to the wind. However, my weekend began Sunday at 9 p.m. I spent the entirety of Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday immersed in the history of journalism and media.

You’re jealous, don’t lie.

One of the projects I’m involved with during graduate school is aiding in the development of a curriculum for a middle school beginning journalism class. My classmates and I began teaching at Broad Ripple’s Arts and Humanities magnet school mid-October.

Part of what excites me about teaching is acquiring a more intimate knowledge of my craft. Most reporters and newsroom junkies don’t stop to think about where journalism came from and how we got to where we are. The first newspaper in America, 1690 Publick Occurrences, was shut down after one issue. Since freedom of the press didn’t exist yet, you needed a license to print a paper, which enabled the government to control what type of information was released.

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It put Kinky Cardinals in perspective for me. Yes, I was the editor-in-chief of the Daily News when a story about the bondage group on campus ran. Hooray freedom of the press for enabling us to run stories relevant to the student body without fear of being shut down!

Print media started out fairly slowly, which was to be expected. What threw me for a loop, however, was that there was a hint of Internet usage in 1848 by the Associated Press. Obviously it’s not the Internet we think of today, but the most basic concept remained the same.

Wrap your head around that one for a moment.

The concept of the Internet and sharing information with other people appears to be a constant desire for people. We like to share it makes us feel good inside. Sharing information leads to a more educated populous which is better for everyone.

The sheer speed of the digital revolution blew me away. It seems like overnight the world changed from being print and analog based to online and digital. Trying to consider what the world would be like prior to computers and the Internet conjures images of a world I don’t think I’d want to live in. Technology has made everything easier to a degree, while adding a plethora of problems that didn’t exist before.

However, now I can turn my wireless connection on, open Firefox and find out the latest information published by Shorewood Ripples, Shorewood High School’s student newspaper. The kids do a nice job; you should check it out if you’re interested in high school journalism. Poof, I’m reading news from Wisconsin. It’s that easy, and it’s great.

The ease and consistency of the Internet puts into perspective a side effect of all the convenience.
What happens when you can’t get a wireless connection?
What happens when Gmail is down?
What happens when Twitter is down?

Most people have experienced at least one of the above scenarios. I challenge you to recall what your feelings were. The first time my Gmail went down, it was like the world exploded. I couldn’t see if any of my classes were canceled, if my students needed me or if my professors needed something from me.
I didn’t know what to do.

Luckily, I had to go to class so I was able to go there for an hour and fifteen minutes and by the time I returned, my Gmail homepage was intact again. The crisis was over and I felt absurd for freaking out about not being able to access my e-mail.

That’s the world we’re in, though. We’ve become too reliant on technology. It constitutes part of our identity. We consider ourselves Mac or PC instead of just people.

You can tell a lot about a person by what type of computer they use, and I think it’s becoming a problem. We often use computers and technology to replace actual social interaction.

Think about recent social interaction and how social it really is. Was there anybody answering text messages during the gathering? Was anybody playing with an iPod or iPhone?

The Internet is available all the time and we have a tendency to just revert to surfing the Web when we could actually be talking to each other. Perhaps this is just with my generation, however, I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse from here.

Technology can’t be avoided, and shouldn’t be. However, we need to remember there is a real person behind that avatar.

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