Easy to exit?

A lot of interesting ideas were brought up in the closing keynote at the CCCU conference, which was given by Wes Baker, from Cedarville.

One of the ideas that he discussed was the notion of self-selection of content, and how this affects our opinions, ideas, etc.

Technologies are encouraging group polarization, because it’s so easy to disconnect from people that you disagree with and reconnect with people who think exactly like you do. That is, because we self-select what information we are exposed to, it is very easy to ensure that we are never exposed to information that we don’t like.

Online communities, as Wes put it, are very easy to exit. This is certainly true – you simply stop going to that forum, IRC channel, whatever, and those people, many of whom only know you by a handle, have no way to contact you.

However, this probably assumes that online communites are necessarily less binding (emotionally, socially, etc) than f2f communities. I think that, for the most part, for most people, that’s probably true. However, I have some folks that I consider good friends, who I met online, and with whom I carry out the majority of our relationship online. Most of them, I have eventually met in person, but not all of them. And in that regard, I’m quite the exception, simply because I travel so much.

Wes also brought up the cellphone issue that we’ve been talking about since college. When we were in college, we had the pay phone on the hall, and everybody knew what was going on in everybody else’s life, based on who’s calling them, and what they yelled on the phone. These days, not only does everybody have a cell phone, but the fire warden decided that all the room doors must be closed at all times, so nobody is connecting to each others’ lives via simple osmosis. It’s now harder work to make these connections. Are they doing that hard work? Yeah, probably. I wouldn’t know. I’m not in the dorm anymore.

Whenever the “older generation” attempts to understand the “younger generation”, they are forced to make generalizations. These generalizations, while they tend to be false in the case of many/most individuals, are nevertheless very useful to analyze the group as a whole. I don’t feel that most of the generalizations about “generation X” apply to me, but I see that they are fairly useful when dealing with us as a whole. It’s going to be interesting to see how these analyses play out in the long run. It’ll also be interesting to see what the generation after the next gets called, if folks can’t come up with anything smarter than “generation Y” and “generation Z” to call the next two.