Two of my colleagues wrote articles yesterday about their very different stances regarding “Internet delusions.” I suppose it’s in my nature to find a diplomatic common ground, instead of choosing sides. Maybe it’s because I’m the oldest of three kids, and someone’s always got to be mediator. Whatever it is, I’d prefer to look at both sides of this argument through a neutral lens (as best I can), as opposed to the dreaded Millennial scope. Perhaps if we can all agree on something, we can avoid this argument erupting into a heated West Side Story feud. Although, I think Devon could pull off those dance moves perfectly. Scott, I’ll have to meet you in person first.
Devon and I are what I like to think of as “special Millennials.” Although we were young, we still lived in a time before the Internet. In fact, I remember the “Dark Ages” before the Internet. And personally, I loved them just as much as today. Of course, I was only a child; my only cares in the world were evading my vegetables and playing Wiffle Ball before dusk. But I still remember the first time I had to use Google for a school report. Oddly enough, I was heartbroken. My trips to the library were my reward, and bookshelves were my equivalent to a magic castle. They still are! I refuse to use an e-reader. LONG LIVE PRINT. So, when my teacher told us we had to use the dreaded and new Internet to research our reports on famous jazz musicians, I didn’t get it. And I was pissed. Sadly, I’ve taken out this misdirected animosity on the subject of my second grade music report; I’m lookin’ at you, Duke Ellington.
But like everyone else in the digital age, I adapted. I traded in my card catalogs for a Palm Pilot, and I reveled in IR Battleship. Take that, dad! And slowly but surely, I began spending a lot of my free time on the Internet (and playing the Sims), but we don’t have to go into that…Sure, there are plenty of reasons my generation makes me abandon hope in society: Teen Mom, selfies, and don’t even get me started on the music. I just checked Spotify’s top tracks only to find Magic!’s “Rude” as number one. That’s right, a band with an exclamation point in its name is #1! And that song is crap! COMPLETE CRAP! As I was saying, of all the things that make me scoff at my “entitled” generation, the Internet is not one of them. I couldn’t be more proud of the Internet.
And like BOTH writers pointed out (YAY! We agree on something!), it’s not technology that’s not to be trusted, it’s the people who use technology. Sorry for all the hate, Internet. You didn’t mean for it to be this way!
The Internet is what you make it. No one is forcing you to watch porn, and no one is saying you have to watch stupid Youtube videos of people dancing to pop music. No Clockwork Orange binge-watching here; you’re in control. Do I get credit for that literary reference, Scott? I’m the first person to tell you I’m horrified at what people do on the Internet. Just five minutes ago, I saw through our site analytics that someone searched “Can you get married in Kardashian hollywood?” to get to our site, and it’s probably three times a day someone is getting to our site via a porn query. Don’t ask me how, I have yet to figure it out myself.
But like they say:
So yes, there will always be those people who use all the right tools the wrong way. Like you said, Scott, Nascar. ‘Nough said. But there’s still plenty of people that use it the right way. I won’t go so far as to say that by the “right way” I mean curing cancer or something of that caliber. But learning, even if it is “useless” trivia facts is still learning, and I will defend to the death your right to learn useless facts! And within the mindless fact-accumulation, you might actually learn something of value. It starts with Channing Tatum, but it can end anywhere. And, Scott, I am a little upset you got my hopes up that Channing Tatum was a Beyonce back-up dancer. I iz disappointed!
But what has the Internet done for me? Lots of things! I learned how to crochet, knit, cook (I make a mean quinoa and kale bowl), play a couple guitar chords, origami, I could probably go on and on. And my favorite use of the Internet besides learning is plain ole entertainment! I don’t think my self-proclaimed “awesome” taste in music would be nearly as awesome without the use of the Internet. I’d probably still be listening to Panic! At the Disco thinking it was as good as it gets. So thank you, Internet, for Radiohead, The Decemberists, Wilco, Sufjan Stevens, The Pixies and everything else I love.
And anyone who has a problem with Reddit has a problem with me. I’ve been a proud Redditor for four years (before the Colbert bump), so you know it’s in my blood. As a cursed insomniac, my options late at night on Television tend to be amateur porn or Evangelical sermons, neither of which are my preference. Of course, there’s always books, but when its late at night, your eyes can’t always stay on a page. Instead, I could spend my time on the Internet, learning something, or even interacting with real people. It’s nice not to feel so lonely.
BUT I admit that I agree with Scott on our communication skills. As someone who has grappled with Social Anxiety Disorder, technology has not helped me. Sure, I can text my friends all day and all night but ask me to get up in front of a large group of people and talk about anything and I can’t. Instead, my body opts to go into panic mode and not breathe. It’s horrible, and it’s still a problem. I’m not suggesting a sink or swim approach would have helped, but I probably didn’t benefit from using technology as a crutch for a lot of things. My prom date asked me to prom on AIM for god’s sakes. And like it was pointed out in this Huffington Post piece, dating as a millennial is NO easy task. And I blame our multiple methods of communication. The author is right – we run out of things to talk about. And i’m already not a talkative person.
I have a fundamental issue with our Internet-dependency. Note that I’m not judging because I’m guilty of the “smartphone-glued-to-the-hand” issue myself. However, I can acknowledge that it is a problem. When I’m at a concert, there’s a smartphone in the air for practically every concert-goer. At the movies, the smartphone screen lights are ubiquitous in a theater that is supposed to be DARK. At restaurants, it’s slowing down service! I thank my lucky stars every day (in my head) that my parents have a “No phones at the dinner table” rule. Sure, sometimes we sneak peeks, but for the most part I am highly engaged in my must-needed family time. As someone who lives on the opposite coast as my family, it’s easy for me to see the necessity of a no-phones policy when it comes to reunions, but it’s also easy to get caught up in the now. So thank you, mom.
But if you tell me this is a problem reserved for Millennials, you’ll be getting my fightin’ words. It’s everyone’s problem. We’re ALL on our smartphones constantly connected, whether it’s the middle-schoolers on my subway hogging the aisles or my grandmother trying to figure out how to give a life in Candy Crush. Stop sending me the Facebook notifications, grandma! I love you, but I don’t play that game!
EXHIBIT A: Christmas Day and my parents are BOTH on their smartphones:
What the heck is that?! (Sidenote: If you look REALLY closely you can see widdle Hannah photos!)
And just last night, I was watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother that summed up this growing problem in two frames:
Prior to smartphones, people had debates – they couldn’t solve disagreements immediately with a single search. They hashed it out the old fashion way: logic and pre-conceived notions. Maybe it wasn’t the right way of having a discussion, but it was certainly more fun.
While I am in no way advocating we throw our smartphones out the window and power down the Internet, it would be nice if we developed some sort of decorum for its use. But even that’s probably too optimistic. In the meantime, try to find the right combination between Internet-browsing/learning and stepping outside for fresh air, physical activity, or hell even grabbing a beer with friends. However, to say the Internet is the problem is simply unfounded. It’s on us to find the balance.
Because if we keep progressing towards screens and away from other interactions, things could get a little hairy.
Like our beloved Vonnegut said, “The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.”
So, come on guys: