by Veda Kumarjiguda
Last summer, I made a goal to survive a week without phone, Internet, or television. Inspiration? Oprah (of course). She’d done a show on how a family had stopped bickering and bonded over board games once they were technology-free. I asked my parents and my sister to join me in my pledge, but they were filled with excuses; my parents: “We work on the computer!”, my sister: “Oh, but True Blood starts!”
So I was on my own. The first day wasn’t so bad – I went to the beach, saw my friends from high school, and took silly pictures with a blow-up whale. The problem started the next day when I was sitting at home and using a lint roller. I didn’t want to roll lint. I wanted to upload my pictures onto Facebook. I looked at my lap top. I opened it. I looked at the lint roller. I put it down.
Needless to say, I failed. I couldn’t even go two days without the Internet.
That’s a scary thought.
This summer, I picked up a young-adult novel called Feed by M.T. Anderson. Anderson tells the story of a future where human brains are implanted with a direct connection to the web. In the novel, children go to School™ where they learn how to best utilize the Feed instead of acquiring a traditional education. Their every thought is shaped by their connection to the Network. The Feed whispers the latest trends and prices as they fall asleep (and if they can’t sleep the Feed will play lullabies from around the world).
Everyone in Feed has lost the ability to read and write, and language has almost deteriorated completely. The characters search for the right words through online thesauruses and speak in IM when they are unable to express themselves. They can never leave the Feed – not that anyone would want to. Without it, their bodies start to fail and go into “mal.”
I loved Feed because of its similarity to our world. I thought about M.T Anderson’s comments on peer pressure, trends, and advertising long after I put the book down. We’ve all heard it before: the amount of time Americans spend on the Internet is b-a-d. Brain-sucking. Possibly even child-killing. Maybe Anderson is right, I thought, maybe the Internet tells us what to think. Maybe it makes us stupid. Like the characters in Feed, we have so much information at our fingertips. So much so that maybe we’re confusing collecting knowledge with thinking critically.
OK, maybe true. But I hated how most of the teens in Feed were portrayed as mindless drones. In reality, the Internet is populated by plenty of smart kids who are totally in control of “the Network,” right? (Right?) I was angry enough that I wanted to write a blog post and yell, “LOOK I’M USING THE INTERNET FOR GOOD. I’M THINKING CRITICALLY!”.
But it has also inspired me to give my “no technology week” another try.
When Veda is not wasting time on the Internet, she’s trying to whistle or making paper cranes. She is currently pursuing a degree in English and Economics at Barnard College.