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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

This month we asked our students to watch this 1991 United Airline
and asked them to weight in on its relevancy today. 
As always, their response surprised us.

For want of humanity

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(2/2018) When venturing out to write this, I had thought I should speak of technology. In retrospect, this was a rather a foolhardy enterprise, since I would not consider what I know as first rate (or even, second-rate) information. Besides some basic understanding of how to work my computer and phone, I am far from being considered "technologically savvy". However, as a member of the human race I can at least talk about how we are evolving alongside the technology we create. So instead, I propose to speak of humanity; its relationships, genius and innovation in the world that it has built for itself.

Humanity is ingenious and every one of us born with an insatiable curiosity. Throughout our lives we explore the world around us with an unwavering need to connect and interact with others. The things that we create are proof of this: Phones, cars, computers, airplanes, postal services, televisions, all of these inventions strive to fulfill our need to reach out across whatever divide there is and touch each other. We can know what is happening on a different country at any given moment, we can talk to strangers or friends on the other side of the globe and learn from them all that they know of their slice of the world. For this reason, we can say that we are closer now than we ever were; however, this I have found, is not entirely true. There is a double-edged sword that comes with technology. It comes when it is exploited or taken for granted and leads to a willingness to see human beings not as they are, but as a series of numbers and pixels on a screen.

For this article, all the student writers watched an airline commercial from the late nineties. The manager of this airline tells his employees that they have been fired by a 20-year loyal customer who no longer recognized the company. The advertisement focused on the shift from face to face customer service to relying on automated messages and fax. The whole thing was only a minute long, but it encapsulated a problem that has not gone away. In fact, the opposite is true, the problem has gotten worse. Nowadays it is not only affecting the way in which we conduct business, but the way in which we communicate with each other. With the development of social media apps, our interactions have altered to a point wherein we cannot be alone without our 200 plus followers coming along for the ride. I know I probably sound like an old curmudgeon, complaining about these young’uns today with their instaface and snapbook, but life surrounds me with daily proof.

This is a small example that has stuck in my mind. I was out to breakfast with my family when we spied a scene worthy of Norman Rockwell. Two pairs of gentleman sitting by the window in a pool of morning sunlight; separated by tables, chairs and several decades. The older couple sat across from each other holding up a newspaper between them, complaining about the headlines and discussing this and that. The young pair a few feet away, had their heads bent over their in a odd reverence and faces slightly lit by their phones. They did not utter a word to each other or even spare a glance at their equally occupied companion. Looking on I couldn’t tell if they were friends, lovers or strangers and I felt a cold uneasiness wash over me. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, I have seen people on dates, friends out to lunch, and entire families completely disconnected from anything outside of their screens. I am guilty of this. In public, without a book, I whip out my phone and try to avoid whatever people want to make small talk. At home I click away on my laptop, television on (and ignored) in favor of procrastinating whatever necessary tasks have found their way to my To-do list.

News is also rapidly evolving with technology and seems to be pouring out every way you look to the point where it becomes too much to take in. Stories of corruption, bloodshed and anger are becoming common. While the world has been made smaller it is still easy to distance yourself from the faces on the screen because they are shadows in a nebulous network of information.

For the past four years I have been working for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. This local newspaper that values itself on developing a personal relationship with its readership and community has taught me the importance of this bond between the costumer and the business. I have seen this newspaper call on students to understand what it means to work as a team, to build and improve and draw the surrounding community together.

Technology is a wonderful phenomenon that opens so many possibilities in the world. It has advanced to the point in which nearly anything is possible, but with this extreme potential to do good, it has an equally great propensity to cause harm. For bigger businesses this is made even worse. Now the face on the screen is not a human being, but a source of revenue; they are broken down into numbers and figures. The way we use technology has created a society in which people have become cold and desensitized. The world is divided by screens that have made us cynical and blind to the fact that we are all members of the human race. Today, we have to remember that we need more humanity than machinery.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir