The Internet at 25: Out with the park, in with the chatroom

mccleveThe word “isolationism” sums up the theology of the millennial generation quite simply.

Scholars and philosophers all say this is the loneliest generation to ever be raised in America. The social ties millennials hold are less connected than any of the previous generations.

Technological advancements have expanded beyond anyone’s imagination, as they continue to progress at incomprehensible measures.

 

 

Last week was the 25th anniversary of the Internet, though most of us can’t even recall what life was like before its existence. Overnight, it changed Americans, and now it’s an essential part of our everyday success.

While its resources are invaluable for research and collaborative purposes, it has forever transformed communication for those of us who know social media to be a friend.

For children, the days of running down the street to knock on the Smiths’ door to ask if Billy can come out and play are long gone. The idea of a child even approaching someone’s front door without an adult present seems absurd.

It is far simpler for friends to use one of the dozen electronic alternatives of communication to invite someone to “play.” Although the concept of playing has completely been redefined with advanced technology, too.

Young children revert to playing video games online with kids all the way across the globe. They will never meet these children they play with — it’s just simple chatter to enhance the virtual system on which they are operating.

Middle-school-aged kids get the most of their gossip stirring online. Cyberbullying is the new and improved version of stuffing the little guy in his locker. It’s a hell of a lot easier to be the intimidating bully when there is no physical contact. Size is no longer relevant, and neither are witnesses to the crime.

Those entering adult world are realizing the way their parents and grandparents met one another is far different than the current 21st century dating scene. It no longer seems appropriate to approach someone of romantic interest unless inebriated and pathetically blunt. The days of courtship have been replaced with Tindr swipes.

We live within a virtual world that is far safer than the real one outside our computer screens. We can tweak and perfect who we are with simple clicks. We can find “friends” in any country who are just as lonely as us and connect with them.

Interpersonal communication skills suffer the more people rely on virtual communication.

Not everyone who knows how to make a post on Facebook struggles looking someone in the eye, but there is a drastic difference in the younger, millennial generation than the previous Generation X, our parents, in how we associate with other individuals.

Our ability to start a conversation with everyone at once, via email or social networking, makes us fearful of approaching those we don’t already know, making us limited to a small pool of real people. Taking the effort to branch out, when a constant stream of “friends’ and listeners are always there, waiting seems ridiculous.

Millenials aren’t getting married young, either. Past generations seem to have met their spouse in college, shortly after, maybe even wed a high school sweetheart. But now, it’s common to be 30 and unmarried.

This is transforming social standards. The picture of graduating, finding a job, getting married and starting a family have been bulldozed by launching careers and busying oneself with self-help hobbies.

With the added effort it takes to meet someone organically, people stop exploratory dating and focused wholly on themselves. Meeting online has picked up drastically over the last few years, but many remain skeptics to the associated reputation of desperation.

A 2013 Oscar nominee, “Her,” portrayed a possibility for what future relationships may be like; man and computer will be so intertwined it will be almost impossible to draw the line between the two.

It looks like George Orwell’s predictions just may be coming true, as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s are disintegrating all around us.

The Internet’s effect on Millennials and the uprising silent generation may be influential enough to shift the American Dream entirely.

Reach the columnist at Aubrey.McCleve@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @theartsss