English is a living language. It changes with time. New worlds are added the dictionary every year, and old words take on new meaning. In 2018, the word "instant" means something different than it once did. With our incredible access to technology and the internet, we have an expectation that instant means right now.
We want no time to lapse.
No loading. No refreshing. No waiting.
There was once a time in our not so distant past that "instant" meant the five minutes that it took to cook "instant mashed potatoes" or the five minutes that it takes to cook "instant rice."
What has changed in our society to shift the instantaneousness of time from minutes to less than seconds? The level of access that the world has to the Internet has dramatically changed in the last decade thanks to the emergence of smartphones. We find ourselves increasingly dependent on technology. In fact "nomophobia," a fear of not being able to use a cell phone or other mobile device is on the rise (LaMotte, 2017). This constant need to be plugged into a world that responds instantly to our every question has revolutionized the way that we interact with each other and the world.
This instantaneous world that exists has created a "separate self" in the digital world. As a teacher, many times I see that students experience a bit of disconnect between who they seem to be in the "real world" versus who they are in the digital environment including social media. However, these two worlds coexist and overlap. Bosses, coaches, and others routinely Google search for potential employees or future players. Many people (adults and teenagers alike) are not always cognizant of the digital legacy that we call a "digital footprint" or "digital tattoo," and how that digital identity can follow them into their real life.
Actions online are often viewed as a direct reflection of a person. An individual's "digital footprint" may be a positive or a negative, and much like a resume, a person has to work to cultivate a digital footprint that is indicative of how the individual would like to be perceived in the world. Educators should begin to teach students directly how to do this with specific lessons and instructions. It is silly to assume that everyone understands how easy it is to find a person's "digital footprint." People, especially our teenagers, feel anonymous because they hide behind a username or some other identity, but they often forget about shared connections like mutual friends, location tags, media posts, and other identifying features included in their online actions.
Because "instant mashed potato" mindset of everything at our fingertips right now doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, we need to reflect and continue to push the conversations with society and education about what, who, and how we are in the digital world. Parents need to be encouraged to have conversations with their children about online safety. Teacher preparation programs need to include considerations for the digital environment that exists, and a plethora of other industries that need to consider how things have shifted, changed, and morphed in this last decade.
LaMotte, Sandee. (2017, December 1). "Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain." CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/30/health/smartphone-addiction-study/index.html.
Mrs. Autumn Riley
Native born Texan, Autumn Riley, is an educator-leader married to a dynamic high school teacher and mom to two wild little boys. When she isn't training for her next half-marathon, she spends time working on her sketch-noting and poetry.-writing. She is a Christ-follower and small group leader. All content is copyrighted to Autumn Riley. You may freely pin to Pinterest or link back to my blog. All other uses require permission. Thanks!