SCHONEKER: The iGeneration: you’ve gotta turn us on

 

 

Jake Schoneker

This generation is brought to you by the letter “i.” As in iPods, iBooks, iBeds (no joke – they’re making beds with iPod jacks and speakers now) and all the other iGadgets we crave.

I’ll admit I had my eye on an iPhone this Christmas but decided to wait until next year, when the much-ballyhooed iPoodle is expected to hit shelves.

Think your best friend is cool? Just wait until you can buy a new one with a 350-gigabyte hard drive and built-in karaoke machine.

With our money, our minds and our time, we are becoming the iGeneration – a new wave of tech-savvy young people who were raised in the online playground.

The question is, does our “i” stand for interdependence or introversion? Innovation or inertia? Are we inciting an information revolution or suffering from digital indigestion?

On the one hand, our iPath certainly seems to be pointing inward. Nearly anything worth doing can be done from the comfort of our own home or our own desktop. With iPod blinders we can hide the buzz of our surroundings and plug ourselves in to the music of our own world. We can spend countless hours inside our flat screen, where everything is just the way we like it. In our perfect world we can arrange and customize our files and folders, organizing and compartmentalizing our hectic iLives.

All efforts are made to make life more efficient and enjoyable, less subject to the turbulent truth around us. But while we seem to be rapidly moving in, we are emerging at the same time outward into an exciting new world that connects us and makes modern life work – our iGod, the Internet.

Through the Internet, the iGeneration is inundated with information from all sides. From online news feeds, music downloads and eBay advertising to Facebook messages, cellular sports and Google Earth, we are constantly connected to the world around us and reminded of this fact everywhere we turn. There is no escaping it.

Okay, you could quit Facebook – (I could quit anytime, I swear…) – but then how would you hear about parties or procure embarrassing pictures of your roommate from freshman year? The lure of information keeps us coming back for more.

Another i for the iGeneration: intuition. We literally know everything, or at least we could know, after a few minutes on Wikipedia. Want to know which country grows the most tangerines? (China) How about the life span of a crested newt? (10-12 years on average)

Online resources provide an endless stream of free, reliable knowledge to the world, a revolution of the written word. Sometimes I wonder if I might have learned more studying full-time at Wiki University than I do here at Villanova. I would have certainly saved a lot of money. If only they offered master’s degrees … well, it’s only a matter of time.

Even if I don’t retain Wikipedia knowledge for long, it’s okay – it will always be there for me to fall back on. The beauty of digital knowledge is it can’t be forgotten. (It can, however, be wrong.)

It will always be stored in our backup memory, digitized and stored in cyberspace for us to recall. Or so we hope.

The problem is that our iGeneration is so reliant on our iTools that we are neutered and frantic without them. If something goes wrong with our technology, something goes wrong with us.

If you’ve ever lost your files to a computer virus or dropped your cell phone into an ocean (or a puddle), you know what it feels like to live in techno-tragedy.

In the despair of disconnection, the whole world grinds to a halt. No Internet? No phone? Now what?

The “i” in iGeneration speaks to both the strengths and weaknesses of our youth. It allows incredible innovation and an influx of ideas that push our creative capacities to new heights. It allows us to become more independent and self-reliant people while keeping us interconnected and inspired by the world around us.

But our independence comes with the bitter aftertaste of another i: insecurity. While our iExistence has kept us on the cutting edge of current events and technology, it also demands that we rely on our artificial institutions to lead a meaningful life.

As our iGeneration grows into the decisionmakers and innovators of tomorrow, it is important that we define ourselves not with an “i” but with a “we.” And sorry, Mario, I don’t mean “Wii.”

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Jake Schoneker is a senior political science and humanities major from Lansdale, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]