Can the Information Highway Lead to a Better World (and a Better You?)
Essay on the personal impact of the internet.
While there are those who understandably complain that the net provides a forum for hate groups and makes pornographic material accessible to children, the information highway has also proven to be a tremendous resource for both global and personal transformation. In numerous instances, it has made the world both smaller and, at the same time, broader.
The net, a world without geographic borders, has made it possible for people from all over the world with diverse spiritual and political backgrounds to connect with one another. Michael and Ronda Haubon, authors of, "Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet," observe,
"Easy connection to people and ideas from around the world has a powerful effect. Awareness that we are members of the human species, which spans the entire globe, changes a person's point of view."
On the net prospective employees and employers are brought together, parents, professionals, activists, and special interest groups network, buyers and sellers hook up, those in need are linked to resources, and the displaced are united with old friends, while countless individuals make new ones every day.
The old clichÃ©s, "let your fingers do the walking" and, "the world is at your finger tips" take on a whole new meaning on the internet. Once on the world wide web, a student is able to locate information for a school report, a patient can become better informed about his illness, an employee might discover new tools to improve her job performance, an investor is able to receive updates on the stock exchange, and a new mother possesses access to a vast number of resources for parents.
In this fast paced and complicated world complete with numerous challenges that confront us on a daily basis the internet provides information, explanations, and potential solutions. The intention of this column is to point you to some of the best resources available on the web that address issues that concern you. Has the internet touched your life? If it has, we would love to hear about it. If it hasn't yet, just give us, and it a little more time.
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June 1999 Edition
From Columbine to Columbia to Any Town USA
Like so many Americans, I'm still attempting to come to terms with the unfathomable tragedy that struck without warning at Columbine High, a school not so unlike our own schools here in Columbia. The residents of Littleton shared the same civic pride in community accomplishments as we do here in the Midlands . Before April 20th, 1999 what distinguished us from Littleton was largely a matter of geography and demographics. Today we are worlds apart.
We can't begin to comprehend the horror and grief that has devastated Littleton, Colorado. We can respond with heart-felt sympathy and deep compassion for their suffering, but we can't possibly know how the residents of Littleton feel. Still, as fellow citizens of the United States, we do share with Littleton a chilling distinction. Our schools have witnessed more mass murders perpetrated by students than any where else in the world.
There have been numerous explanations rendered as to why in at least nine separate instances during the past twelve months American students have murdered fellow students. Many have concluded that parents aren't involved enough with their children, guns are too accessible, and that the violence is a reaction to child abuse and neglect, or to the massive amount of violence portrayed in the movies and on television. Other explanations include that teens are feeling increasingly alienated and empty, schools are too crowded and understaffed, families are too stressed, and that we're failing to provide adequate role models, and to pass on proper morals and values to our children. The list of "why's" goes on and on and on.
Shawn Hubler in a thought provoking piece for the Los Angeles Times entitled, "A Shooting that Burst the Suburban Bubble," observed, "...these massacres have less to do with public policy than with private pain." I very much agree with Ms. Hubler, the actions of Harris and Klebold may very well have had far more to do with a private pain that was manifested all too publicly and horrifically rather than with public policy. However, I would like to suggest another possibility as well. Bill Moyers once observed that, "the largest party in America today isn't the democrats or the republicans, it's the party of the wounded." He's right I think, we've all been wounded. Wounded by a barrage of bad news, political scandals, jobs that so often feel futile, and the signs that surround us of dying cultures, dying children, dying species, and maybe even a dying earth. It's my humble opinion that children have always acted out not only their own pain, but also the pain of the adults in their lives.
Like so many of us, Hubler searches for "any good to be gleaned from this latest sorrow." Is it possible that the tragedy that occurred at Columbine high might lead us as a society to examine what it is that we truly need to do in order to begin as a culture to heal from the collective wounds that haunt us? Wounds that I sadly believe just happened to be manifested this time in Littleton?
We can blame parents, blame the schools, blame anyone or anything that we want to. Still, I believe that no amount of finger pointing should ultimately distract us from accepting our shared responsibility, a responsibility placed squarely on the shoulders of members of a culture whose primary messages for far too many years have been predominantly echoes of "buy me" " and "shoot em up".
While we grapple with possible explanations in an attempt to make sense of this recent absurdity, and consider solutions that all too often merely address symptoms, perhaps it's time that we revisit the basics. Our children require love, guidance, and our focused attention. It's difficult to adequately provide them with the former when so many of us are rushing around attempting to keep up with the numerous details and obligations that make up our lives. Why are we in such a hurry? Why are we working so hard? Will a newer model car, larger house, or more expensive tennis shoes make our children or ourselves happy? "Of course not!" we answer. Is the accumulation of more and more possessions we then spend untold hours paying for and maintaining ultimately what our lives are all about? What are our actions teaching our children? And what about the often repeated question, "whose watching the children?" According to a recent article in the local newspaper, library staff are overseeing a significant number of our offspring when school doors close. The library or the streets are more attractive options to far too many of our youngsters than returning to empty houses..
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It's parents I suspect who are taking the toughest questions to heart right now. How can we protect our children? How can we best keep the lines of communication open? How do we assist our children in making sense of this tragedy? How do we best provide our children with the skills and tools they need to cope with this complicated world? And while I strongly believe that the full weight of these issues should not reside on the shoulders of parents alone, I recognize that as a parent I need to be prepared to carry a significant share of the load.
The internet, while certainly no panacea, offers some helpful information and resources for parents who are looking for some guidance and support. Still, I feel the need to make one last comment to those of you who are childless. From my perspective, you're not entirely off the hook, because guess whose waiting in line to be in charge when you're old and helpless...
next: A Room with a View
Staff, H. (2008, December 29). Can the Information Highway Lead to a Better World (and a Better You?), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, October 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/sageplace/can-the-information-highway-lead-to-a-better-world-and-a-better-you