By Charlie Wheeler, Staff Writer
As a college student, I find it difficult to keep up with the news. My parents are no longer around to play Fox News or NBC all day, and my dad isn’t here to tell me about what’s going on in my hometown each morning as I get ready. It would be easy to set up news alerts on my phone or just google CNN every so often. Although realistically, that doesn’t really fit into my day most of the time. And so I fall behind on what’s happening in this country.
Unfortunately, I learned about the Parkland school shooting off of tumblr, which is not a news site. It’s a blog site, which has a reputation for being the “hipster” side of the internet. Needless to say, that was not the best way to learn about such a tragic event. And that’s not a jab against tumblr; I use the website for many things, and it does have an area for social justice. The point is that I would have liked to learn about the incident from someone with a little more tact than a teenager posting an ill-informed rant about gun control.
I think teens, especially those in college, just have a hard time staying connected. Netflix and Hulu negate the need for a cable connection in college. Apps like Itunes, Spotify, and Youtube replace listening to the radio in the car, and even newspapers have gone out of style in today’s youth. Not to say that teens never pick up a paper, but not many actually get one daily.
It seems so odd to think about that kind of disconnect. My generation, the millennials, is more involved with technology than the ones before it. A lot of news outlets also have huge online presences. I try to at least check the New York Times every once and a while, but that is not enough.
Social media gets a bad reputation when it’s put in association with youth. We’re too attached to our phones, we’re obsessed with selfies, we have screen separation anxiety, the list goes on and on. But honestly, social media is the most consistent source of information for teens. Even with all Tumblr’s faults, it still manages to inform teens about different social issues.
Snapchat in particular gets a lot of criticism. Adults in the older generations are wary and untrusting of the truth behind the disappearing messages. They find it hard to believe that anything sent through the internet could truly disappear. Snapchat’s pandering towards teen narcissism also seems to attract criticism. An app geared towards selfies seems a bit superfluous. But it gives people a quick and easy way to communicate, without that much effort. The concept of streaks encourages kids to stay in contact with each other daily, even if just for a few fleeting seconds.
To be honest, I don’t use social media that much. I go on snapchat maybe three or four times a day, most of the time just to ask my group chat about homework, and once to maintain my one and only streak. I honestly cannot remember the last time I went on Facebook to do anything besides find baby pictures of myself of my mom’s page. I haven’t opened Instagram in weeks, maybe months. Tumblr, however, I am on quite frequently. I post my poetry, my rants, and I reblog everything from art to bad memes, to surprisingly well-written fanfiction and rants about Trump.
I know of quite a few people who do the same thing. But it’s not all bad. A lot of my friends I actually met through Tumblr, and only know them on that site. I think that’s another thing that’s relatively new with the more recent generations: online friends. We meet people through the internet, and sometimes we know someone for years without ever meeting them in real life. Other times, we specifically use the internet to hook up with people, through apps like Tinder and Grindr. And while that might not always be the safest thing to do, it works out for the most part.
In an effort to stay connected, however, we often distance ourselves. We text one friend while hanging out with another, we go on snapchat while on dates, we Instagram our days off. How many times have you instinctively pulled out your phone mid conversation? We miss out on the real life aspect of our friendships.
But this isn’t some lecture to tell you to get off your phones. I simply want to encourage us to get on our phones for the right things. Instead of checking Snapchat for the fourth time on the same bus ride, try checking out your news app, or googling your chosen news outlet to see what’s being said that day. Even if you just skim the headlines, you’re already doing better. The more informed you are, the better.