Arts and Culture

Internet(al) Divide

by Kate Walz

The Baby Boomers had the Beatles, Gen X saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Millennials can now marry whoever they want. But there has been war, terrorism and disease. How can people say that one is better than the other when each generation has it’s own victories and setbacks?


“Generation affects people very differently… you shared certain historical situations at the same time period in our lives.. that shapes the way we perceive certain things and certain situations and the way we respond to them.” said Mr. Dean Eliason, an English teacher here at Monticello.


One recent development with an earth shattering effect on both our society and generations is the internet, which can affect people both internally and externally: internally, because that is how many communicate with the outside world, and externally because that is how information from the outside world gets to an individual. The internet will forever change these generational interactions and how experiences are shared.


The internet blurs cultural, economic and social lines, while allowing for more perspectives. In this way, future societies can be even more progressive than before.


“I’m not sure if I was born in a different era that [being progressive and opening minded] would be part of my personality.” said Alexandra Blaine.


The internet came along in the 1980s and had an impact greater than can possibly be fully  evaluated now. This threatens the old method of establishing generations by birth rates and historical events. It has created a divide with the Before-Internet age and the After-Internet age and causes the friction between older and younger generations.


The friction arises between each generation’s opinion of the internet and how they use it. Younger generations tend to see the internet as a positive light, as they use it most often and for positive interactions like social media. Older generations would oppose the internet because they knew what life was life before it and tend look back on the past with rosy glasses, all while using the internet for paying bills or sending work emails.


“The internet has created a new generation of young people who possess sophisticated knowledge and skills with information technologies, express values that support learning by experience and the creation of a culture in a digital space, and have particular learning and social preferences.” said Gustavo Mesch, a sociology professor at Oxford University.


In other words, the younger generations are propelling further and further ahead with the internet as the reactant. For example, the whole technology industry did not exist half a century ago, yet now it is the fastest growing industry in the world. Also, the internet has changed how we learn, both inside and outside of school to more hands-on experience based format.


Meanwhile, kids all over America have heard the story of how their parents biked everywhere and played outside until the street lamps came on. Now, teens are constantly badgered for being on their phones until the blue light of their screens illuminate their tired faces and taint the darkness of their rooms. The internet has had such a profound change on society and everyone’s individual lives as well as a collective society. Thus, the divide threatens to end the inter-generational conflict. Not only did the generations grow up differently, but now they can’t relate to each other.


A tug of war has begun between older generations whose goal is go back in time to when the world didn’t fit into a pocket, and younger generations, who are using the internet to its full capacity.


“There needs to be a happy balance… for health and development. They [people] need to be able to do things besides swipe on a screen.” said Ms. McCaskill, of the younger generations.


But there is so much more to technology than swiping on a screen. On the whole, the internet has broadened global perspective, communication and available information. The internet can provide an alternate life like never before. For example,someone in America can talk to someone in China more conveniently than ever before. In fact, the friendship may be stronger because it is based less on geographic proximity and more on personal interests.


To maximize society’s potential, young and old generations should not be butting heads on whether the 1965 or 2015 was better, but collaborating on how to use the internet to its best advantage.


This issue is not a new one, and it won’t be going away anytime soon. But as long as the issue is recognized and people are aware of the divide, the collaboration can be an easy, and even welcomed transition, instead of a continuation of generational warfare.  


“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.” – Marcus Cicero (circa 43 BC)


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