I can distinctly remember the first time I used a computer. The year was 1997. I was using the family Dell computer with Windows 95 and I was playing a Barbie computer game (I was a cool cucumber). I was only 4 years old, but I had the benefit and the luxury of having a computer in our home with the opportunity to learn how to use it; an exposure and chance that many others still do not have.
Growing up, I was very fortunate to have numerous opportunities to learn how to utilize technology. In addition to having access to it in the home, the public elementary school I attended in first and second grade had a computer lab. We were able to visit it weekly to play computer games. We did not receive formal instructions but this “hands on” experience allowed us to learn the basics e.g. turn off/turn on, open/end a game. When I transferred to a private school for the third grade, my new school also had a computer lab. We would visit the lab biweekly, but rather than “play’ simple computer games, we played “fun” games that incorporated play with learning skills which would be a precursor to those we would learn for Word or Photoshop. In fifth grade, we started to learn how to type with different programs. It became a competition to see who could type the fastest with a candy reward given to the fastest typer. This continued throughout middle and high school. I was also required to take a computer skills class in my sophomore year of high school. This class taught us how to use Microsoft Office and Photoshop, as well as how to create and design our own website. This firm foundation in computer skills has given me a decided over others. While most young people my age know how to use Word, my proficiency in Photoshop and Excel is a skill employers want, which gives me an edge over my competition. Also, for creative projects I am able to take the lead and create something unlike anyone else because of my Photoshop experience. I believe my primary and secondary school computer experience has allowed me to develop the skill and ability to access and utilize a wealthy of information however I choose. These skills have also helped me and my friends to stay in close, if not constant communication. Through Facebook, GroupMe, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Regardless of time or distance, we know we are only “as close as a click away.”
In ancient times, people were successful based on their ability to hunt, farm or gather. Today my ability to utilize the computer will help facilitate my success and in part help define who I am. My creativity, my work quality and even my socialization are a result of my computer skills and access.
Before this class, I knew that not all countries had the same access to technology and the Internet as America does. I did not realize though that even in America the digital divide exists. Through high school, I attended a school with predominantly white upper-middle class families. It was not ever a question if people had access to the Internet, but rather if they had the latest iPhone or laptop. Everyone had access and most everyone knew how to utilize it for his or her advantage. Attending UT opened my eyes to the fact that maybe not everyone had the latest Apple computer or an iPhone. I was surprised to learn that connecting with others on social media websites was unlike high school. People did not ask for your real name to find you on Facebook, but rather they asked for your Instagram username. It seemed like this was the new “non-threatening” way to ask for someone’s phone number without actually asking for his or her phone number. I know that different social classes/races utilize different social media platforms, but for me, it seems like regardless of race or class that I am able to find someone at the very least on Facebook but if not there on Twitter. I am a Young Life leader at a high school in Cedar Park and I know that almost none of the girls use Facebook and instead are on Twitter. I have not observed obvious class or race utilization differences on social media but I have a distinct difference in the way different age groups choose their social platforms.
I am very active on the Internet, and as such I belong to many various websites e.g. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. On all of these websites I have an account and I visit them at least once a day. After watching the documentary, “Terms & Conditions May Apply,” I realized to what lengths and depths companies will go to watch us. As a result, this raised this question in my mind, are we entitled to privacy and can we expect privacy on the Internet at our social media sites? The answer is a resounding, maybe! Whatever we say, post or opine on the Internet is potentially there forever and available for the world to see. Surveillance measures such as the USA Patriot Act are arguably necessary in this new world we live in but at what cost? Telling the world what I think about Taylor Swift’s latest album is certainly different from recruiting for ISIS. Is it a slippery slope? I have the freedom of speech, but I cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. Like it or not, the safety of our country is more important then my privacy. After all, the whole premise about social media is “sharing.” If I do not want “you” to see something, then I had better not put it on the Internet.