Why is it drug addicts and computer afficionados are both called users? - Clifford Stoll
I stare at the computer screen. The light reflects off my face and the dark walls, and escapes out the window into the night. I type my message and hit enter. Clickity-click-click. I see it show up in the little box, with the others. I realize how amazing this is, but also what a waste of time it can be.
It may have started with Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, which opened the gateway to a world of information and speed. As its use spread, the portal of information grew wider. People could send and receive information at previously unthinkable rates. Radio, television, computers - and the granddaddy of them all, the Internet - followed in an increasing conglomeration of technology that could drive a simple person insane. These would give people speedier and speedier answers to questions, raising their expectations of the flow of usually pointless facts.
I am not saying these inventions are evil or should not have been created, but it is the way we have taken advantage of them and forgotten what else is out there to see in this world that is a problem. In fact, if used properly, these can be the greatest of man's inventions. To want more is almost a definition of being human, and that is exactly what is happening with information. The Information Age has created a new way of being selfish. Even as I type this, friends are instant messaging me wondering why I can't answer them more quickly. Everyone wants his toys to be faster, shinier, louder and better than anyone else's. I will admit that I, too, am frequently possessed by this greed. With the introduction of speedy data carriers, we now want everything to be just as quick, easy and rewarding as retrieving our e-mail or picking up a remote and hitting the good old On button.
The Information Age has indirectly changed other things. Everybody wants more for less, and food is a constant victim. People want microwave burritos and one-dollar hamburgers without leaving their car. Grandpa's story about walking ten miles to school uphill both ways may be a figment of senility, but it makes a good point. Now, a parent is lucky if kids don't gripe about wearing seat belts during the five-minute drive to Discovery Zone.
These are the effects of the growing desire that life be handed to all on a silver platter. When everyone in the world expects this, there are bound to be arguments. Let somebody else do the work. What if "somebody" doesn't want to? Who will you turn to? It's not like you're actually going to try to do something yourself! And if something needs to be done, it needs to be done now. Not tomorrow, not next week. I need it now, or else.
The point is - when will we push ourselves too far? When will we be taking in so much information that we can't handle any more? And when will we request information to the point where others can't handle any more? I believe we've already passed that point. We're stressing ourselves out and wringing the knowledge out of everything we can. There is a point when you can be too smart for your own good, and we have reached it.
Some don't have the time to be people. We will eventually realize this, and hopefully settle down. My advice: slow down, have some quiet time to yourself, and call me in the morning.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.