The Facebook generation

Instant gratification and digital everything

The book is dying, radio listenership and participation is down, and stacks of newspapers go untouched. Computer usage has skyrocketed, social networks dominate our time, and we gripe on Reddit. Our computers and our smartphones serve as music stores, jukeboxes, news outlets, cameras, human interaction, as well as for professional business, meetings, and scheduling. Nude pictures of celebrities leak, ISIS releases a beheading video, and the president is heard nation-wide via a YouTube livestream. It’s a place where people blog, overanalyze, and where people waste hours replying to miles-long YouTube comment threads.

This is the age of instantaneous gratification. Last week in an interview with Ladar Levison, my generation was described as the “Facebook” generation. I think that it could more appropriately be called the “smart” generation. We have smartphones, smart watches, smart shoes, and even smart glasses. But what do we lose from a generation of people who expect and desire information on a second’s whim? What does the age of content on demand do to old-school outlets of information that take longer than five seconds to find, access, and critique?

We lose a lot—the internet creates a place where things happen instantly—we can see video at the click of a button, and then reply at the tap of another—but what are really saying? Are we being constructive? It also creates a drug. The internet serves incredibly dynamic content that addicts, and leads us to chase the high that massive amounts of information allow us to feel. There’s a replacement for everything, and often a subpar one at best. We trust our lives to something that we feel gives us anonymity and privacy, when in reality it provides neither. In fact, our addiction to instant access often backfires and we find ourselves victims of total exposure. We turn to the internet to make us more social and yet we often lose the most valuable thing—face to face communication. We sit on our computers chatting away, communicating with people far and wide, and lose that much time learning about the people around us, making new friendships, and enjoying existing ones. We talk online, we date online, we live online in a sense—and it’s becoming an acceptable practice.

We lose what we’ve built—down go classical institutions in favor of online replacements. Books are deferring to Kindles, radio is becoming Spotify or Pandora, humor is now YouTube, and the news is the online sites of many multi-faceted news outlets. Everything is on-demand, and on-demand is everything.

So, what can we do, as people enrolled in a tech school and a part of this generation? We can take time to reflect on the wondrous benefits we gain from the internet, by taking some downtime that is essential to maintaining perspective. We can come forward, and make new things, but not before we make sure that it adds without taking away. We can step away from the clichés of our generation—and create a world that we’re happy to live in now, and proud to pass on to the future.

Why not change the world?