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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

An Ever-Shrinking World

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(3/2013) "Itís a Small World After All." Itís strange that the current state of the world in which we live could be summed up by the words of a Disney song. As strange as it may seem, we live in a world that has a plethora of technological innovations that continue to shape our lives, but in many ways these tools are just being used for entertainment. In the movie Good Night and Good Luck, Edward Murrow made a speech warning us of the ways that the technology we love so much can be abused. While living here at Mount St. Maryís amid all of these new technological innovations, itís hard not to think back to that prophetic speech and reflect on how technology is working to bring us closer together, but it ironically setting us farther apart at the same time.

On the one hand, the innovations of our time have had some extraordinarily positive effects on the way we live. The optimist in me simply canít begin observing the negative impacts without looking at the benefits. Perhaps the most amazing gift technology has given us is the gift of accessible communication. Before our time, concepts of things like "the long distance relationship" or a "video conference" were relatively unknown. With our phones, we can call or send a message to any person we have ever known, take film videos or pictures, or access the World Wide Web. Facebook has replaced the old-fashioned idea of a physical photo album with a digital collection that holds every picture we would ever need, sometimes even containing something akin to family movies. Resources like these have been incredible blessings to me and also to many people I know.

Last semester I reaped the benefits of access to online communication. While surfing Facebook and doing my best to put off work for the night, an old friend of mine from high school sent me a message. I had not seen or heard from him in almost a year and half. Our busy schedules made it difficult to keep in touch. My career working with the Office of Residence Life at Mount St. Maryís University and his budding college career in Pittsburgh kept us apart. Within minutes, we were talking and reminiscing about old times as if we had never lost contact. After a few seconds (thatís the speed of the Internet in action, folks!), we planned a day for the two of us to meet up, watch a movie, and catch up on each otherís lives.

However, despite the ways that technology brings us together, it has done more than its fair share of tearing us apart. Especially here at a college campus, I come face to face with the many ways that we let these innovations that were meant to serve us, conquer us instead. When I am at lunch with my friends, I cannot help but cringe when people bring out their phones during lunch and merely text away while their friends and significant others carry on an entire conversation right next to them, yet worlds away. I walk by the computer lab near Patriot Hall or the library and I see people typing furiously, updating Twitter and Facebook with a devout fervor that can be incredibly unsettling, while at the same time there are piles of books sitting next to them.

Even I have found myself guilty of this technological convenience from time to time. I canít deny that it is so incredibly nice to communicate with my girlfriend in Virginia while Iím sitting with my friends in Patriot. Or to turn on Facebook and let a 15-minute break run over into an hour long one.

I do not believe by any means that we should overlook the benefits that we have gained through such amazing developments. The ability to talk to anyone anywhere has made life incredibly easier for so many people. However, I canít help but look around at my friends and fellow students and wonder what we have given up in the exchange. Yes, our ability to communicate has become instantaneous and risen to a global scale, however our proclivity for one on one "face time" seems to have dropped. The ability to push a button and suddenly have access to everyone we know has proven to be amazing in helping everyone from scattered extended families to long distance lovers keep in contact and maintain a presence in each otherís lives.

But gone are the time-honored traditions of our culture like the love-letter or the care package; they are often replaced with emails and text messages that are indeed faster, but feel just a little bit cold. Books, the last remaining bastion of written literature, seem to be displaced by e-readers and tablets, proving that we can now do practically everything with a computer. Even the spoken word is now open for attack by the electronic world. Text phrases like "lol" and "brb" continually find their way into the common lexicon. All this points to a world rapidly changing, a world that favors the fast, convenient and impersonal over the slower but more intimate means of communication.

While the world around us continues to develop, I encourage you to think about the kinds of things you may be leaving behind in favor for your cell phone or laptop. There is an incredibly exciting world out there, and while you may be "plugged in," you may also be missing out. After all, who doesnít want to sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott