Introducing: Shaggy hair and dancing cats!
On February 9, 1964, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. It’s estimated that 38 percent of the American population at the time (roughly 74 million people) tuned into watch the debut.
And while music scholars look back at that singular performance as the event that shifted American music forever, at the time, reporters were much less interested in the Beatles’ pop and music influence, and much more concerned with their shaggy hair.
In February 1992 America Online launched dial-up internet service for Windows. By 1996, 20 million adults had access to the internet, and like with the Beatles, people were excited about it but didn’t yet know what to make of it.
Much like the reporters discussing the shaggy hair of the Fab Four, more people at the time were taken in (or taken aback) by the spectacle than recognized the seismic shift in cultural and human engagement that was unfolding in front of them.
What was beginning was the gradual usurping of time away from the tangible and human, devoted instead to being alone and hidden. With a rapidity never seen before, technology became a replacement for face-to-face engagement. Technology became active instead of passive. And it hasn’t served humanity for the better.
CAUTION! Internet Ahead
As a parent to a six-year-old girl, the statistics I read regularly about the detriment social media is on young people, especially teenage girls, scream “CAUTION!” at me every day.
Anxiety, depression, and increased rates of suicide among teens are so prevalent that full industries have cropped up to support parents and teens to get out of those vicious cycles. Therapists and the like help pull teens away from the devastating effects these children and teens endure online.
My daughter happens to still prefer a few cartoons aimed at three-to-five-year-olds (fine by me), but that’s the extent of the time she spends online. Human engagement and tangibility have always been our family’s priority.
And we’ve modeled that behavior as often as we possibly can. We look up words we don’t know in an actual dictionary and ask people we know for their ideas or answers to questions we don’t have answers for. People and the world around us have continued to serve as our primary resource for learning and fun.
My family got dial-up around 1994 and I remember the thrill (after 30ish seconds of dial tone humming and hissing) of hearing that “You’ve got mail!” voice come out. And I yelled out to my parents, “Guess what?! I’ve got mail!!” We shared dancing cat videos and checked the weather together, and we were psyched about it! But it didn’t upend our humanity.
In Favor Of Humanity
Stefanie Small is Web Strategist, Content Producer, and Copywriter. From her home office in San Francisco, she nurtures entrepreneurs through their online materialization process, strategizing and producing all relevant content (video, photos, audio, website) necessary to present themselves with confidence and authority online. www.StefanieSmall.com
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