By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 3, 2015
Technology has always played an integral role in the way people communicate their affections, lusts, and desires. From the age of innocence and the composition of handwritten letters to the modern age of Tinder, PlentyOfFish, and Snapchat, we have always found ways to showcase ourselves in the most attractive manner. But times have changed our behaviour; online relationships are not what they once were.
When I was young MSN Messenger was at its prime, ICQ was nearing extinction, and personalized HTML websites, such as Nexopia, were starting to make an impression on youths. Technology was giving us hormone-overloaded kids new opportunities to flirt and establish relationships digitally. Gone were the days of calling a girl’s home, having her father pick up, and then awkwardly inquiring after her. I was a part of the first ever generation to enter high school with a cellphone—albeit my plan was limited to emergencies. Either way, we were living in a new age. Socializing occurred in classrooms and hallways, but it also took place after school, online.
During that time, the Internet was a way to present our persona, but more often than not, our vulnerabilities. Kids were marketing themselves in all the worst possible ways. We showed off our interest and begged for approval, but more often than not our efforts went ignored. The Internet became another playing field for popularity where only few can excel. Keep in mind that this is before the time of Facebook, and although connections with friends are common, as high school students, opportunities to expand our networks were limited and the risk of talking to strangers was high.
Kids these days have more communication choices than friends to talk with and the Internet infrastructure is now incredibly advanced. Apparently, with the right algorithm, you can fill out some questions and have a computer find a mate for you. Such technology is a little eerie to me. Although we don’t understand how it works, we are no longer afraid of it. Internet dating is no longer taboo—it’s big business. But that’s an adult service and I’m talking about the children. Won’t somebody think of the children!
With the improvement of technology, high school students are rejoicing in the convenience, but are also suffering from the danger. Cyber bullying and permanent blemishes such as nude images have taken the lives of numerous young people, and will continue to cause casualties. In my day, kids were limited to the word of mouth. Now, relationships and defamation are at the tips of your fingers.
When I was young I was a part of a popularity contest; the worst thing that could happen was indifference. Now, the effects can last a lifetime. Tech companies that focus on communication for a younger demographic need to find a solution, a means to regulate without interfering. But then again, growing up is all about making mistakes. Figure it out or log off.