Most Lehigh students have grown up in a digital world. From the rise of personal computers in the 1980s to mobile phones and the Internet in the 1990s to social networking in the 2000s, technology has always been a part of their lives. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of people aged 18 to 29 said technology makes their generation unique, the most common response.
But as we come to rely on digital devices more and more, people are beginning to question the role of technology in modern life. From concerns about privacy on social networks, to changes in brain processes, to the effects of the Internet on industries like journalism, individuals are increasingly looking at the Web with a critical eye.
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Three-quarters of young adults have created a profile on a social-networking site, and Facebook, the most popular choice, currently has more than 500 million active users. As more and more people join the site and share intimate details of their lives with wider circles of people, Facebook is redefining what it means to be private.
Users are not always aware of how visible their updates are, or how long they will remain accessible in the ether. Should social networking sites do more to keep their users’ activities private, or do we bear some responsibility for what we choose to post online? Are people connecting with new friends they wouldn’t have met otherwise, or are they turning away from real-life relationships to join virtual communities?
Whether at work, waiting for the bus or even driving, people are increasingly reluctant to wait for a quiet moment to log on to the Web. They can check e-mail or monitor their bank balance from anywhere, thanks to smartphones and WiFi Internet access.
It may seem that all of this multitasking just means we’re more productive, but it might have sinister side effects. Frequent Internet users are more easily distracted than their unplugged counterparts, and by denying their brains time to recharge, they may inhibit their ability to develop memories.
The Internet is even changing the way people read. With so many Web sites, blogs and videos to see, people are less interested in taking the time to read longer articles. People get more and more of their news online, sometimes from established news outlets but also from amateur journalists.
Are we exposed to too much information? Can individuals without the resources and training of media professionals cover stories fairly and accurately?
Thanks to the prevalence of technology, our lives are constantly changing. We are more connected than ever before, but as we sit in front of our individual screens, we’re also more isolated. Do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages? Are we better, worse or just different?
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Story by Emily Groff
Posted on Friday, October 08, 2010