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Throughout the history of mankind there have been many technological achievements that have propelled us into a new age with their innovation. Things like the industrial revolution, automobiles and electricity have changed the very way we live our lives and will continue to have profound and far reaching effects for millennia to come. However of all our marvelous accomplishments there is but one that stands out from the rest and will likely be considered the greatest turning point in our civilization for any amount of time into the foreseeable future. That technological breakthrough is, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the internet. With limitless potential for effortless communication across the world, the internet is rapidly changing the way we live our lives. Whether you’re a ‘digital immigrant’ or even a ‘digital nomad’ the consequences of having a global and collaborative interconnected network have surely affected you in some ways. Whether it is in your daily commute as light signals on roadways are now fine tuned to be customized for maximum efficiency and minimum wait time, or just how you pay for your morning coffee at Starbucks, you have been affected in some way. All around the world products and services are being optimized to work with the internet and the ‘digital society’ we are rapidly creating. I am what you may call a ‘digital native’, someone who has grown up around technology and always had it readily available. Through this upbringing I have had the opportunity to use the internet to its fullest potential. The term ‘just Google it’ is the answer to many questions I come across on a daily basis. In fact, I’m probably the shining example of a polar opposite of a Feral Child, a child assumed to have been raised by animals, in the wilderness, isolate from humans. Because of this rearing I’m able to more efficiently communicate and interact with the shaping world around me and it has made it much easier for me to become a productive and successful member of society. The internet has also played an enormous role on my personal Socialization. In fact, my Self view is intertwined with the internet to a point that I don’t know who I would be had I been born 100 years ago. With that said, as a digital native (from the boondocks) this is my personal journal of how I became a member of our ever changing digital society.
If there was a defining moment in my life when I could say “this is when I entered the digital society”, it would have to be on Christmas day when I was 5 years old. My parents had gotten me what I still believe today to be the best gift of my entire life, a Sega Genesis game console. From that point on I have been addicted to technology and all its wonders and have even formed and been part of several Peer Groups, for instance my programming study group. But in all reality that game console was probably the single biggest Agent of Socialization I have ever experienced. Whether it is because it was my first or because it was such a huge deal to me back then is irrelevant, the point is that it happened and it affected me profoundly. For many of today’s ‘digital immigrants’, not having experiences like those aforementioned can lead them into a state of resocialization, learning the internet etiquette and norms. It’s from these types of experiences and interactions with our digital society that have helped shaped me into the person I am and have lead to my developed Ego.
Growing up in the age of Facebook, MySpace and Google has lead to a more interconnected and easily accessibly social life. Having such wonderful social communication also has its downfalls. For example, when my parents were growing up, if they wanted to hang out with their friends they had to ride their bike over to their friend’s house or at least have a parent drop them off. This is not the case with today’s society. Nowadays if a youth wants to connect with their Peers, it’s as simple as flipping a switch on their Xbox, powering up their computer or reaching into their pocket for their cell phones. Many would argue that this is making our society as a whole by and large a much lazier and less active people. Although there is some validity to this statement it does not take into account all the benefits of such interactions. For instance, what starts out with IM’ing your friends can lead to a better and easier communication channel that will be with you for the rest of your life and can help you in the ‘real world’ of corporate America, better known as Anticipatory Socialization. This is a skill and an asset that I dare anyone to take for granted.
In closing, living in the digital society has better prepared me for a life in which everyday more and more of our tasks are automated by computers or made to run more efficiently. Gone are the days that students crank out their Sociology papers on typewriters (I’m currently producing this paper on my favorite laptop) and as we move into the future it’s hard to tell what it holds for us. It’s becoming clearer each day the Manifest Functions of the internet but what we really need to focus on is what the Latent Functions maybe. As new technologies are introduced at almost light speed from all corners of the earth, we as sociologist must focus on what the long term effects of such a digital society may have on our children, because if you’re old enough to be reading this then the future no longer lies with you, it lays with your children. The effects of the internet are still too early to see and must be studied more in depth to come to a positive conclusion. Hopefully our grand children will have a better answer as to the effects then us. As a digital native I would like to leave you with a slang term popular among my peers: TTYL (Talk to you later).
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