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October 12, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

In the September 27 "Democrat," we ran an editorial by Robert Reich. In his piece, Reich espoused faith in the millennials with regard to this upcoming election. I do not share Reich's confidence.

Not so much about the election as about how this generation plans to use the most persuasive power in history.

I am of course talking about social media. For good and bad, social media influences how people think. President Trump issues his proclamations through Twitter. President Obama used the truncated platform, as do celebrities, athletes, celebrities who are celebrities just for being celebrities, etc.

Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and others I am unaware of because I am a borderline Luddite. What were once the playthings of a generation with collective FOMO fear of missing out have transformed into the go-to purveyors of news.

When the Arab Spring unfolded a few years ago, the activists used social media to coordinate rallies and notify each other when government goons were approaching. In a recent "Frontline" episode, the show's producers sifted through Facebook posts by individuals at white supremacist gatherings in North Carolina leading up to and following car rampage in August 2017 that killed a woman. The producers were able to identify Unify-the-Right members who attacked opposition protestors. One assailant, a Marine at the time, had the temerity to repost videos of him on his Facebook page committing assault. He has since been drummed out of the corps.

The knock against millennials is they are self-absorbed. They literally have the world's news resources in their hands but they are more interested in who did what to whom and what were they wearing when they did it. Psychologists and sociologist worry that this one-to-one relationship young people have with their smartphones is producing, at best, a generation of narcissists and, at worst, legions of benign sociopaths; individuals who are so self-occupied they truly lack the requisite empathy to care about others.

My fear is not that this technology will fall into the wrong hands; my fear is it will not be used. The world is slouching ever closer to total automation. Not to sound like an alarmist, but in a few years, it may be routine to hear, "Alexa, wake the kids, give them breakfast and take them to school." Google and TESLA are rolling out self-driving vehicles. I am not against these advances; they represent man's innate desire to grow.

This ever-evolving, ever-expanding technology makes life easier; it also makes us complacent. Perhaps my generation came too late to the party, but millennials possess this incredible gift and they are experts at using it. But are they using it for progress or for diversion? I suspect the latter. Despite tech manufacturer's commercials touting the transformative power of their devices, are we or they the young folks maximizing their potential? A potential made more attainable via technology?

If any good comes from the rancor and hate we see emanating from Washington, it will be the younger generation in one voice saying, "We are tired of your old people's games and we will use the technology you have bestowed upon us not to repeat your mistakes."



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