One Big Messy Oxymoron

I slept way too much today.  I have been sick all week, getting better and getting worse each day.  It’s exhausting.  It’s also freezing outside and I am in no mood to work on my website – seemingly the only work I really have to do, due Wednesday.

So I decided to sit back and read an article I had been interested in reading for a little white: Philadelphia Magazine’s “Is It Just Us, Or Are Kids Getting Really Stupid?” I felt a series of mixed reactions while reading it for a half hour.

This article is an oxymoron in itself – it talks about how kids’ attentions spans are at deplorable levels today, yet it’s a ten web-page article.  I suppose they can argue that the web offers information in small chunks – if the entire article were all on one page, everyone would be afraid to go near it.  It is also clearly written for and adult audience, anyway.  The author mentioned how it is easy to retain information if only one chunk is coming your way, yet Philadelphia Magazine’s pages are loaded with ads and links to other articles.  I wonder how many average people made it through to the final page.  Even as I went back to the article to extract the link and headline, my journey was stunted by a huge ad.

Philadelphia Magazine's layout is a jumble of ads and extra links.  This article is about how social networking is ruining the brains of children, yet it encourages you to share it via numerous social applications.

I have always found this topic fascinating, and I see myself reflected in its statistics.  Everyday, the first tab I open when I log into Safari is Facebook.  This is more out of habit than an actual desire to be on Facebook.  I usually stare at the newsfeed for a few seconds before switching to my email or my WordPress account. But nothing else I turn to has that “satisfaction” – if I can even call it that.  It’s not satisfactory, but if I didn’t check the newsfeed now, I feel as though I’d have a lot of catching up to do.

To be brutally honest and somewhat disgusting, the bulk of my time on Facebook is spent maybe once or twice a day whist sitting on the throne.  I’m not going to sit there and stare at my US map shower curtain for a few minutes every time.  And my attention span – even while doing a humanly necessary task – craves news.  But not newspaper kind of news – I don’t have time for that.

So I find myself not on Facebook as much as I used to be. Yet I still feel very wired.  One big reason I feel so intertwined in social media is because I am (well, won’t be for long) a journalism major.  I’m not sure if the same can be said for all schools, but Temple University’s journalism program demands social media and an Internet presence.  Almost every class I have taken in the journalism department has had a class blog (usually, thankfully, a WordPress), sometimes one in which I am to actively participate and contribute to.  Many classes require students to create their own blogs or else strongly encourage it.  As I aforementioned, my Design class requires the creation of a website, merely as a final project, not an ongoing one.  But I know many students in my class also have to make blogs and websites for other classes – and teachers do not like when you use the same blog or website for more than one class.

It is embedded in our culture, yes, we know.  But it is becoming almost required.  Many times I have considered removing myself from Facebook just so that I can live in the real world.  It is not possible to live in the real world when you have a Facebook, at least not for me.  The mere existence of my online life makes me a hypocrite to reality, and I rely on it in some shape or form.  True I text many people (which is something I consider more meaningful than Facebooking, but not as meaningful as a phone call or real face time), but there are those who it would seem “awkward” or “weird” to text, but completely acceptable to communicate with online.  Were my Facebook to be gone, I would lose touch with many people, I am certain.

I believe Facebook has contributed to confusing the real world and the online world.  On AOL Instant Messenger, you create a “screen name” – not a “real name” or even “birth name.”  It is you online alias.  On MySpace, it was the norm to create a user name for yourself that was not necessarily your real name.  It was also acceptable to change it, confusing others, yet keeping your two lives separate.  I never revealed my full name online during my MySpace years.  In high school, we were warned against revealing such personal information as our names.

Then Facebook came along and made it almost pertinent that you enter your full first and last name so people can find you.  Certainly, this is most helpful, yet why were we O.K. with it?  I suppose the allure came from the “security” or Facebook – you had the options of how your profile looked to outsiders – those who were not your friends (yet).  People were “real” on Facebook, to me.  It was O.K. to be personal online in my network – and it still is.

This is scary.

Back to the article.  I found myself taking notes as I read – something I’m sure the author would be astounded by.  I jotted down the books mentioned, the first ones of my Christmas Break reading (as I don’t have much time to read for pleasure during the semester).  I also noted what blew me away – the author’s son, a senior in high school, doesn’t know the days of the week!? It is justified by the fact that his school operates on a 6-day calendar, which I completely understand from experience.  But come on! How does someone who has lived for 18 years not know the days of the week?! I do not believe exaggeration is a good idea when writing such a comprehensive article on this topic – it made me believe the other facts less.

I especially could not relate to the blonde Student Council leader mentioned in the article.  She served as the foil to the generalization of students the article was about.  She was all about living life and shutting off her phone when doing homework.  This girl talked about how she wished more kids would come out to school events and all be friends.  Honey, reality does not work that way.  I disliked many students in my high school; seeing them outside of school was the last thing I’d want to do.  Yet I’m sure without social networking, animosities would diminish.  But without Facebook, how would these girls have won their place in student government?  It’s a necessary evil.

I did, however, find myself wishing I had taken the English courses that did not read books.  As I struggle in American History, currently, I look up documentaries on Youtube and Netflix to help me understand.  I do all the reading, yet it still is not enough for me.  Perhaps I am a product of this social network society, or just a visual learner.  Perhaps now the lines will begin to blur between those with actual learning disorders, and those average social kids.  It’s going to be a tough call.

My phone rang once while reading this article – but it was my mom.  My mom is one of the few people who actually call me, but she does text me regularly.  I answered, of course, because she’s my mom! If I didn’t answer, she’d have left a voice mail, and my patience does not allow me to check voice mails.

My second distraction came while writing this blog post.  Although, I wouldn’t call it a distract – more of an opportunity taken.  My boyfriend has been toiling away in the painting studio all week and will be stuck there until his finals are over.  So of course, I jumped on the chance to meet him at 7-11 for his little break in the day.  Stepping out of my apartment gave me time to think about this and talk to him about it.  I feel as though I cannot get my point across in this post.  I also feel like this is too long – no one is going to read this.  It’s a vicious cycle, yet the bulk of this post is short stuccato points about my feelings on the article.  Half of me is writing until I get my point out, the other is all over the place.

Finally, I would like to note how my study habits have changed from middle and high school to college.  Secondary school curriculum does not require laborious hours of study as college classes do.  I rarely found myself in the library at school, except during study halls so that I could talk with my friends.  I had no idea how to write a paper until I came to college; my “Junior Research” class was a joke in high school, taught by a first year teacher who happened to be the mother of two brothers who attended my school, so everyone knew her.  It was also combined with “Speech” class, so only half the year was spent on “learning” how to write a paper.  I had NO idea how to form an argument before college, only how to repeat what I read.  And I had no idea how to disagree with authors and question ethics before taking journalism classes.  I feel as though my lower education was lacking, yet was I equipped for college level learning at that age?  Start em young!  It works with everything else.

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