The 160-character Generation (Society’s Slideshow)

Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y. These are the names for generations that make up a majority of our population. Our current generation, featuring people born from 2001 to present is named Generation Z, or the New Silent Generation.

I believe that the Population Reference Bureau ought to group the teenagers from Generation Y and children from this generation into a new group called the 160-Character Generation.

These people have never known a world without Twitter, Facebook, the internet, computers, and cell phones. Each of these modes of communication have one thing in common: They all limit your thought process to 160 characters.

Cell phone companies found this was the amount of information that could fit into a text message and be delivered relatively quickly. Facebook and Twitter use this limit to regulate the amount of information they have to maintain and store on their servers. Additionally it serves to speed up communication on the internet. The smaller your file, the faster it transfers.

Sadly, this limitation has found its way into the educational system. Students now regard heady research as the first page of results from Google. They lose focus when they are presented with any amount of material that exceeds 160 characters. Similarly, their idea of a functional and informational essay is (you guessed it) 160 characters.

Students in school now are so used to abbreviating communication in text message that text speak finds its way into term papers and short answer questions. College professors are finding that more and more students are citing Wikipedia, Google, and Altavista as the three main sources for expository papers. I can only imagine how their eyes must bug out of their head reading these things and wondering why K-12 schools have failed them.

I hereby posit that K-12 schools share some of the blame, but should not be shouldered with the whole load. Many teachers attempt to combat text speak, sentence fragments, and generally poor grammar with requirements in assignments that specifically forbid this behavior. Success in this field is by and large limited.

Parents are becoming less and less able to regulate their children’s time in front of the television or staring at a computer screen due to the stagnation of wages and increase in cost of living. It is no longer possible for a family to survive on a single income. You can blame whoever you want for that, but I blame NAFTA and current efforts by radical conservatives.

Libraries along with brick and mortar book stores are disappearing faster than manufacturing jobs due to this trend as well. Why would these people want their tax dollars to finance something they never use (a library) or even leave the house to find a good book at a place like Borders, which recently went out of business.

The disappearance of these resources also serves to limit teachers’ resources for places to send students outside of school to complete semester-long research papers or projects. They will be forced to use more and more precious class time to shuttle kids from the classroom to the school library in order to finish required assignments.

Ladies and gentlemen, whether or not we like it, this is the future of our country. These people will soon be able to drive, vote, run for political office, manage stores, and become CEOs of multinational companies. (Shudder to think how that’s going to turn out)

Considering all of this, it’s no wonder the Tea Party and other tech-savvy politicians can maintain their current office. All they have to do to get votes out of this generation is make ludicrous promises in 160 characters or less.

Promises such as: “We’re going to give you better services and lower taxes. We’ll cut government spending and pass the savings on to you.”

Maybe they’ll say: “We will refuse to compromise on our beliefs. We will deliver on our promise to never raise taxes as long as we are in office.”

These promises never mention the fact that in order to pull it off, such “entitlement programs” like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment will have to disappear. They never mention that permitting corporations to tear up collective bargaining agreements that guarantee a decent standard of living as well as medical and retirement benefits will ensure that none of these things will be a reality in their forseeable future.

Unfortunately, the option to unplug is long in the past. There is no easy solution to this educational and societal conundrum. But taking baby steps is better than pointing fingers and passing the buck.

Software programmers can design programs parents can install on their computers as administrators of the system that will enforce set limits on computer time. They can also prevent unmonitored usage of the computer with password protection. Also, installing filtering programs similar to what are used in school to prevent Facebook and Twitter usage could be implemented at home.

The bottom line is, unless we take clear and definite steps toward forcing our current generation away from overusing technology and implementing some analog aspects of communication, future history books will have chapters and sections that are 160 characters or less.