The Age of the Internet

Sitting behind a screen is comfortable. It’s easy. Behind our screens and keyboards, we’re more blunt and honest with each other than we have ever been face to face, but it’s time to take a step back.

Is what we’re doing on our phones and laptops and tablets as valuable as real-life interactions?

Having lived before and after texting became a common mode of communication, I feel more connected and less lonely when I’m hanging out with friends in person. For the next generation, though, I have a feeling that technology and communication will become more comfortable and valuable as a means of meeting and keeping up with friends, finding information on everything imaginable and assisting people in every part of their daily lives.

I was not born in a time when asking an artificial intelligence a question was the way to find an answer. Within a few years of my life, hardback encyclopedias became obsolete and Google became the primary source for research. Seeing these new inventions has been monumental for me, but younger generations will never know anything different. Eventually, the generation born after mine will call us old-fashioned for writing our notes with pen and paper. They’ll walk through the libraries where we once did our research and download those books on a tablet.

The biggest problem that I can see since the dawn of the internet is cyberbullying. Before, bullies teased and taunted in person, but now, the anonymity of the internet makes torturing victims even easier.

According to date taken yearly by i-SAFE Inc., half of all teens in the US have been bullied through the internet and through texts and calls, and 88 percent of teens have seen cyberbullying in action. Sadly, half of all teens have taken part in cyberbullying others.

According to the Cyber Bully Hotline, one out of every 10 teens who are frequently bullied online attempt suicide. Many social media sites have put systems in place to help prevent cyberbullying, and most sites allow users to block other users. It’s not a perfect system, but neither is the disciplinary system for traditional bullying.

The internet may not be perfect, but it can do some pretty amazing things. I can talk to people from other countries instantly through video, audio or text conversations. In kindergarten, I remember writing letters to my pen pal in Australia and waiting weeks before a reply came. This wide range of communication opens up possibilities not just for interpersonal communication but also for professional communication. Work-from-home and office-based jobs are becoming more and more common, and proficiency in technology is quickly becoming a necessity in daily life.

Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the new generation makes advancements. So many things have already changed to match the growth of the internet, and the world will continue to change because of it. Schools will mold education around what students know best: their tech. Businesses will move online, and stores might even opt for switching to digital sales only. Hopefully this new generation will use the gift of the internet wisely.