In 1996, public schools in McDowell County received brand new computers with an operating system called Windows 95 running on them. With this new program, students had the ability to experience the Internet for the first time. Everyone was so excited at the possibility of being connected with the planet in a new way. The idea of jumping into a larger world was exhilarating for everyone. Each student sat down individually and crafted a personalized email that would be sent to students at another school across the country. After hitting “send”, the students sat wondering with anticipation what would happen next. It was such a foreign concept to everyone. Pen pals were a big thing back then. Having a pen pal was a cool way to meet other kids, but even with that students had to hand-write a letter and place it in the mail. The Internet was about to give them something completely different – something new!
The boundaries and limitations felt by young children in a small town seemed to slowly be disappearing and unlimited access to the rest of the world was at our fingertips. There was no way to tell where the technology they were experiencing would go and how it would evolve in the coming years. Looking at the web today compared to how it initially functioned back in 1996 is quite jarring. There was a sense of mysticism about it that seems to be absent now. Ways of communicating with others has expanded beyond emails and has evolved into independent social media companies. The wave of information flowing through the web at any given time is absolutely astounding. The hiccup with that is that among that incredible amount of information tracing across your screen can be good, but also malicious. Navigating that complication and narrowing down what you prefer to be exposed to is a seemingly impossible task with the web as vast as it is.
It doesn’t seem that the urge to stay connected to the Internet for teenagers today is much different from what it was for kids in the 90’s, in a sense, that the excitement of feeling like you’re a part of the world is a very human desire. That connection feels like validation that your position matters – and it does. You can have a platform to express yourself to countless others regardless of where you’re from, what your religion is, how you look, etc… We’ve come so far in this new age of human/technology relationship and the bond with our connected devices has become so normal that it is difficult to keep our eyes and our minds on what may be happening in our immediate reality.
You can find countless stories of people who have decided to log out of their social media accounts for extended periods of time in order to get back in touch with their environment. The internet was once a place to go in order to escape your life for a temporary moment, now it is commonly advised to escape the Internet in order to stay in touch with yourself. It’s not to say that incredible things have not come about because of our unlimited access to each other. Sharing our lives with others can be a very special thing.
Of course there is no definitive right or wrong answer when it comes to how you utilize the Internet personally, but it is important to develop a facility in yourself to ensure that it always functions in a positive way for you. At a time when finding answers to things you’re faced with in life is already a challenging task, trying to figure out what you should or shouldn’t be exposed to on the Internet is as productive as juggling two handfuls of water. Maybe you’ve already found the right balance. Maybe your use of the Internet is something you’ve calibrated positively. If you have found that symmetry, that is a wonderful thing. If you aren’t sure about the way in which staying connected to the Internet 24/7 impacts you, I propose a small challenge.
Now, of course you should only do this if there isn’t something pressing in your life at the moment that requires you to be on the Internet and your social media accounts. If you have the time to step away, try it. Instead of texting a friend, call them, instead of Googling an article, find an excerpt in your local paper and read it, or dig through your magazines and find something that catches your attention and offer it to that. It never hurts to reevaluate and get a fresh perspective on things around you.
Logging in everyday is a choice and so is logging out.