Disclaimer: I am not a Luddite, per se.
I use technology like everyone else, and to a great extent, I enjoy it. Also, I understand that this article is going to sound incredibly pretentious, so please bear with me.
We indisputably live in the “information age.” One very visible irony of applying this label to the modern era is that, at least for the most part, every age is the information age (there are a few exceptions to this rule, like the Dark Ages). When Johannes Gutenberg created his press in the late 1430s, the information revolution he was a part of was just as impactful, if not more, to fifteenth century society as the Internet is to our present society.
There are many statistics that point out that the average American today has access to unbridled and inconceivable amounts of information, in quantities that far outstrip what Americans could access just twenty or thirty years ago. The volume of data produced worldwide is expanding at an insane rate.
We have a responsibility to use all this information in a future-oriented and progressive way.
Buzzfeed quizzes aside, social media has huge potential to connect people in ways that were unimaginable just twenty years ago, much less one hundred years ago. And it has, to an extent, lived up to its potential. Governments have been toppled, and people have become inspired and educated simply because they have more information at their disposal. In addition, people can connect easier with others from around town, across the country, or on the other side of the world. At the speed of light, I can shoot a message to my friend in India or video chat with someone in Argentina, in addition to streaming music from Paris.
However, as a society, we have become addicted to stimulation. We need to see something on our screens, constantly, to the point where we can’t enjoy the world around us in the same way as people without the Internet.
In a sense, we are locked in a system of information overload – addiction without a cure, at least in the foreseeable future.
We get endless streams of Snapchats, receive more articles than one can possibly read, and are thrust into photorealistic worlds where we can die and be re-spawned with little to no consequences. We are creating the information around us, sure, but in a sense, the information was always out us in this world. We just weren’t aware of it before.
We were blissfully ignorant. There’s a sort of romantic notion about this kind of blissful ignorance—the bliss of it!
There aren’t many practical solutions to gain control of your life. You can cut the cord and go to the woods, but that’s not exactly practical. As cliché as it sounds, the best idea might be to look up, see, and enjoy the world. It seems like we’re not doing that nearly enough.
Schaffer is a member of
the class of 2016.