It was around 2002. My family had a rather bulky desktop computer that I, seven or so at the time, got to use for about fifteen minutes each day (with supervision, of course.) I would spend those glorious fifteen minutes using the Paint program, mostly.
In second grade I started getting a grip on keyboarding and Microsoft programs, (PowerPoint was my favorite.) The public school I attended as a child made computers an important priority, and by high school computers were a regular part of everyday social, academic, and personal life.
Social media entered society around the time I went into high school at age fourteen. All we had was Myspace, of course, and most of the time I personally preferred to communicate via AOL instant messaging or texting, which I also began doing at age fourteen. But then Facebook (the new phone book) happened and the tech world altered in a huge way. The notion of “social media” was officially born. All of the big tech companies started linking up and multiplying, and pretty soon we had Instagram and Snapchat. Meanwhile Apple was dominating the device market and becoming a beloved fixture in the West like no monopoly has ever become.
All of these technological advances have marked the most rapid and impressive tech developments in the history of mankind. To think that as humans we’ve been developing languages for hundreds of thousands of years, and yet only within the last two decades we’ve made instant communication across the globe not only possible but convenient and affordable for the average Westerner, is astounding.
What’s more astounding is that a lot of the youth uses these devices and avenues of communication to drum up petty arguments with strangers and to blab on about meaningless fodder. While the internet and all of its wonderful benefits have made the best of times, it’s fair to say that the internet is also responsible for the worst of times. This high tech, highly connected era has allowed us to create new problems for ourselves, as well as new solutions, sure, but we were utterly unprepared for many of the challenges that such rapid advancements have invented.
We are now threatened by a whole host of things from harassment and stalking to vulgarity and propaganda, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the darkness that the internet has to offer. Never before have women and children been exploited or trafficked to nearly the extent that the world is currently seeing. There is a massive slave trade industry that is alive and well, not to mention a “dark” web, where all kinds of contraband flows freely from criminal to criminal without a trace.
Hacking and scamming is now a day job, in which computer nerds funnel so much capital illegally that it’s difficult to even estimate the damage done every year. And it isn’t just the vulnerable elderly who are targeted; if you’ve ever swiped a debit card, you could very well become a victim of electronic theft. If you’ve entered your personal information into a system, say your social security number, you could be a target for identity fraud. What’s perhaps the most daunting reality for Millennials and Generation Z to grapple with is the fact that, if you’ve ever made a controversial statement online or posted a photo in a swimsuit (if you’re female), you could be discriminated against by a school or employer who would have otherwise welcomed you. These are only some of the issues society now faces as a result of our embrace of change in recent years.
And it’s all thanks to our very best friend, the World Wide Web.