PANDYA: Are we defining our age?
Constantly mobilizing from class to class on a bright, sunny day on campus, as I hopped onto the LX and sat on the seat, I looked up. I looked around me at the students who were also on the bus. I noticed everyone was in some way, shape or form on their phones. While most were texting, some were on Twitter, others were listening to music from the phones and some were gazing at pictures on Instagram. But it was crystal clear to me: We were in a new age, where these digital devices were pulling us and we were more so attached to the devices. Trying to fight against the tides of the time and what everyone else was doing, I, for once, pulled out a book from my backpack that I had received for Christmas. The book was titled, “Future Shock,” a term I later realized was something we all experience subliminally, and I realized while sitting on the bus.
Future shock: A term with a definition that most Americans, rather most people, are not aware of. Today’s time, the 21st century, with its ongoing innovations, continuous fluctuations and constant progress, has been named the Digital Age.
Why? Well, it’s clear. Nearly everything that we need or want has become digitized — news, social networking, interactions, schoolwork, job work, reading, writing and even the shopping are digitized. The progress in these fields is mind-boggling and moving so quickly that keeping in touch and moving with it all has become difficult, intriguing, but more so overwhelming.
Alvin Toffler, the author of the book, coins the term, “future shock,” as “too much change in too short a period of time.” He explains, statistically and from his extensive research in the fields of progress in social change and technology, that these changes lead the people unable to keep up with the rapidness and thus “disoriented and facing shattered stress” — a future shock. He explains his deepest fears that come from the existence of extensive progress, modernization, and especially intense attention to things like technology and materialism in a post-industrial society. He explains how he fears that while people will begin to give attention to the rapid changes with the industrial society, the digitizing environment and developments in fashion around them, as they try to “fit-in,” they may lose their core identity related to the family, religion, race, culture and national identity. This sounds like something we would call an identity crisis.
After thinking about these lofty terms, extensive research and especially, persuasive ideas about our time and generation’s fears, it makes one think: Am I facing a “future shock?” If not obviously in front me, is this future shock something that is subliminal? Am I facing an identity crisis? Am I becoming a slave to the system and Digital Age around me? Has the modernization of things around me led me to forget who I really am?
The idea of “modernizing” things has become a common tool to show the throwing away of what was past and old, and moving on to something fresh and new. But, does “old and past” necessarily mean “progressive and better?” Of course blindly holding to stringent principles of the past, lacking depth and application in today’s age is not necessarily moving on. But, just because something is different, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily progressive. This future shock, if we feel it or not, comes when we “blindly” either pick out modern things or let the modernization pick on us. Do we think about why we use these digital devices? Do we think if we truly control how much, to what extent, and for what purpose I use the technological revolution around us?
Again, the future has brought us a gold mine with what we are able to do. At times, we don’t realize how easy we really have it. But, do we take these liberties and this modernization as a tool for our human progressive? Or do we let take us over and lead us a “future shock” of its own kind?
The key to its prevention comes from Toffler’s understanding of this inner core. The time and age we live in constantly changes, and expects us to change as well. The shoes we wear, for instance, changed from Jumpmans, to boots, to Vans, to Jumpmans again, to now Yeezys. The point is that in the mist of being up-to-date, we misconstrue the idea of modernizing to “fitting in.” In the insecurities and ego-hits that come along with this idea of “fitting-in,” we lose what we truly are, and what we should be identifying ourselves with. Thus comes, as a product of this future shock, this identity crisis.
While these questions may sound too philosophical, they are ideas to ponder upon and think about because we are creating this what happens in this age.
And next time, we are sitting on that LX, walking on the pathway to class, with my friends or in the computer lab doing homework, it is something ponder upon, even for a moment living in this constantly progressing time: Will I let this age define me or will I define this age?
Keshav Pandya is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. His column, "Know Thyself," normally runs monthly on Wednesdays.
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