The "Why" of Me
I believe that it is our responsibility to raise, educate, and develop self-sufficient young adults who can make a difference in the world in whatever field they choose.
We are living in a changing world where technology dominates our lives. Many people fear what that technology is doing to our children's attention spans and ability to relate to peers and leadership. I, on the other hand, am not afraid of technology. I love technology and all the ways that it has added to our lives.
I grew up in a very small town in southeastern Arkansas. My graduating class consisted of about eighty-five students of which approximately 15% were African American and the rest Caucasian. The ethnic diversity was virtually non-existent. If your religion was anything other than Baptist or Methodist it was best just not to mention it, and if your sexual or gender identity would not one day land you in a happy, little nuclear family then you took a deep breath, tamped it down, and waited until you got to college to admit to yourself and everyone else who you really were. In fact, any deviation from what was considered the societal norm was frowned upon.
And then came the internet.
And with the internet came the flood of information. If you were homosexual or you were distrustful of organized religion and its agendas, then you suddenly realized that you were not completely alone in the world. Because when you live in a microcosm of society like a small Bible belt town before the internet, you do not always know that, and that feeling is both detrimental to your growth as a person and your emotional well-being.
The world has changed.
That tiny town is no longer cut off from the rest of the world. Through the wonders of social media, I’ve watched the people who remain there grow as human beings to be more accepting of others and their differences. Not everyone has changed, of course, because that is impossible, but so many people have that it gives me hope.
It is true that the internet and access to smart phones at all hours of the day has shortened attention spans. Young adults are accustomed to seeing what is happening instantly and responding to it. This does make challenges to those of us who want to educate them, but that shortened attention span stems from that same flood of information that has been coming at them since they were little children. The beautiful thing about it is how receptive they are to that information. Rather than hitting a brick wall of disinterest and bouncing off, it is absorbed into their growing minds. Our task is to teach them to filter the information that comes in so that they understand that not all of it is good and true.
Social media can be dangerous if young people are not taught to use it wisely. A photo taken and posted on Facebook, if inappropriate, can be dangerous to a person’s future job prospects and relationships. People can be stalked, bullied, and abused via social media. These things are all true.
But it can do so much more!
It can connect you with people who you never would have known otherwise and give you friends in all corners of the world. It can help you stay connected with family who live far away and who you might have only gotten to see during the holidays, if then. It can allow you to support people in their hardest times and celebrate with them in their happiest.
Technology allows the entire world to shrink down to the size of a smart phone and slip into our pockets so that we can take it with us wherever we go.
There is a new template for the human mind that has been forged by the information age. Young people simply do not think the same way that people did a generation ago.
My work as a Research and Support Specialist at the University of Arkansas lets me dig into the new technologies that are emerging and find the ones that will work with this new template for the mind rather than against it.
Because just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong.