Debate is heating up as technology-enabled social media services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are rapidly growing throughout our country and the world... One could reach the conclusion that this is bad for society as information could be looked at as a 'distraction'; or one could equally reflect on how the availability of information has evolved, how it has impacted the lives of real people, and whether or not the resulting impact has been positive or negative... or both.
Collectively, this awareness should stimulate reflection on a personal level. Each individual needs to assess whether or not the overall positive effect that information creation and sharing technology has on the world and your everyday lives, outweighs the negatives of its existence. This is no small task to contemplate, yet undeniably is a critically important question that needs everyones attention and analysis.
Let's first examine several aspects of the 'what' of information availability and sharing. Information that is shared every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year includes messages/email, raw data, charts, records, homework, pictures, financial information and transactions, manuals and books, product information, media/news. Indeed, data takes on many, many forms.
Next, let's consider the 'how' of information, specifically, how it is communicated, used and the domains of our lives it crosses and affects. Information channels our lives via economic, safety and security, environmental, socio-cultural, innovation, political, religious and spiritual, educational, democracy, sports/leisure and entertainment and legal avenues, and the list goes on and on and on. It should be obvious that technology and information have permeated and to a degree, define our lives as human beings, certainly as Americans, citizens, workers, business-owners, students, parents, adolescents and friends.
To consider separating, removing or limiting technology and information from our lives would be akin to removing the blue pigment from green paint. In reality and for all intents and purposes, they are one and the same. In our practical world, we utilize, dare be said, we rely upon technology and information to sustain our standard of living and our literal and figurative existence via multiple infrastructures that support our communities, society and nation:
- The 911 Emergency Call and Dispatch centers in every city acroos the nation employ technology and amass information that serves to save people's lives, prevent crime and contribute to a safer society.
- Hospitals and doctors leverage the power of X-Rays, MRI scans, medications and internet resources to safely and effectively treat patients, prevent diseases and enhance the quality of life for many.
- Attorneys, local, state and federal governments digest googles of information during the course of every day to protect clients, citizens and our nation.
- Mass media (TV, Radio and the Press) create, share and disseminate a plethora of information to help people remain informed, support decision-making, seek shelter when dangerous weather occurs, and yes, to entertain, relieve stress and share lighter moments with others.
- Educational institutions ranging from pre-school to high school and universities provide access to information to transform the minds of young adults to prepare them for the 'real world', along with the obligation to become responsible adults that positively contribute to society.
- Transportation and transit sectors including airlines, water and interstate shipping, personal vehicles and delivery services move materials, goods and people toward new destinations.
- Electric Utility and Telephone companies, Internet Service Providers and Television stations carry the invisible electricity and electronic data across their mediums to where it is requested and needed.
- Businesses of all kinds generate, study and communicate information to research new products, contribute to local, state, regional, national and global economies, providing jobs to citizens, which in turn, enable families to sustain themselves and grow.
- And yes, unfortunately, there are those that will use technology and information for personal gain, to hurt others or to commit nefarious acts of violence toward others.
Indeed, the subjects of technology and information sharing draw parallels to other controversial issues like gun control, birth control, separation of church and state, capital punishment, etc. All are vital, worthy and debatable subjects. Importanty, however, the one aspect that maintains these issues with integrity, perspective and worthy consideration, is that the responsibility for decision-making relative to each area, rests largely with individuals and their personal freedoms, within the confines of this country's Constitution, Bill of Rights and Legislative bodies of government.
Contemporary issues being formed, discussed and developed include Net Neutrality, Censorship, National Broadband, Jobs/Economy and National Security. We all certainly have our work cut out for us. We must likewise rise to the occasion and respectfully, diligently and with integrity, reach conclusions and support the results. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "In matters of style, swim with the current; In matters of principle, stand like a rock"... Each scenario has their place.
As a nation and society, technology and information has delivered us to a threshold of ushering in a new era of changing perspectives, authority and consequences. As citizens, we have the grave, yet honored privilege to consider issues, along with possible alternatives, that will lead to divergent futures; not only for us directly, but also for future generations of people. It behooves us to understand the issues, gather and share information and make informed and responsible decisions... Of paramount importance, remember the feeling of having the freedom to do so.
Watch an excerpt of President Obama delivering the commencement speech at Hampton University on May 9, 2010, in southern Virginia:
As an understatement, this brief video broaches many important areas of the current world we live in. As citizens, are we prepared to address these and future issues? Recognize that change is upon us. It is now incumbent upon us to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.