Yesterday, I wrote about the unique experience of teenagers growing up in the post-9/11 world, but the reality is that teenagers today are growing up in a truly unique world. Consider just how much technology has changed since 1995.
I remember being in band class, and one of my friends told me to check out America Online. Not too much later we received an AOL CD in the mail which offered us FIVE WHOLE HOURS OF FREE INTERNET! I convinced my mother to let us sign up, and using our 14,400 baud modem. Each month, we paid something like $30 per month for five hours of internet, which downloaded incredibly slow. You could download video, but it would be INCREDIBLY low quality, or take absurdly long.
I don’t mean to get too technical, but that 14,000 number was bytes per second. My 3 year old iPhone 4, which has great 3G service on most major highways or interstates averages 500,000 bytes per second when in motion, and can max out at 3,000,000 bytes per second while stationary. There’s no time limit on how much I can use it, but I do have a cap at 4 gigs of data. That is an amount which no home computer could store in 1995. My home internet runs at 20,000,000 bytes per second and has no limitations.
Why do I say this?
Well, a couple months back, I took a group of teenagers to Florida, and we had to drive 15 passenger vans. On the way there, one of my leaders decided to offer his phone as a wireless hotspot. Using his phone he was able to offer 9 different people HIGH SPEED (faster than 3,000,000 bytes per second) internet in a moving car in the middle of nowhere. Everyone was streaming NetFlix or YouTube videos to their phones. When he decided to turn off the service they were very disappointed that they would have to use their own massive data plans.
Teenagers today are growing up in a world where they don’t know what it’s like to NOT have access to the internet at high speed in their pocket.
A month ago, I was on a mission trip to the Navajo Nation. While there, we unloaded a box full of donations. Inside was a set of Encyclopedias. It occurred to me that for 100s of years, that was the best idea we had for how to get bulk information out. The intervention of the internet made them entirely obsolete.
The internet gives us instant access to practically infinite information which is being updated constantly. Teenagers today have always had access to the internet. Those of us over the age of 30 have learned to appreciate what the internet offers us. Teenagers have grown up in a world where at no point in their life did they not have access to limitless information at all times.
If you think about it, until this last century, most people lived their lives and only experienced one or two major technological jumps that affected their lives. With each passing decade, the pace at which technology changes has drastically increased. We have virtually no ability to predict what life will be like 10 years from now. Any guess we make will be wrong.
The biggest constant in modern life is change.