After waxing poetic on all the virtuous characteristics of our wired generation – our tendencies for openness, collaboration, horizontal power structures, interactiveness, and collectivism – the Herrera article briefly mentions a parallel body of work, which points to some of the downsides of having access to the Internet 24/7. Members of our generation tend to exhibit a short attention span, a unwillingness to read or think deeply, and a preference for instant gratification. Of course, these developments are only natural: with more and more entertainment and information options competing for our eyeballs, it would make sense that our attention would flit between these channels quickly, in an attempt to absorb as much as possible.
However, the dangerous side of our new inattentiveness seems to rear its ugly head in the aftermath of Mubarak’s dethronement. While social media was no doubt instrumental in the toppling of his thirty-year regime, the limitations of the medium became abundantly clear when the time for long-term strategizing came around. Social-media based activism lends itself to short-term single-issue campaigns, but seems to flounder when the time comes for sustained deliberation, organization, and leadership. As a result, Egypt’s wired generation have yet to develop a long-term plan for saving their country from economic and social instability. As of now, Egypt is in its worst economic crisis in history. In just the last month, the value of the Egyptian pound has plummeted to record lows. While it is not clear who or what is to blame for this, the need for an educational system that can teach Egypt’s youth how power and counterpower operate is critical to the success of the country: the Internet itself has failed in this educational capacity. In the absence of this endeavor, the future of the country will remain extremely uncertain. Has social media rewired our brains so much that we are incapable of this long term planning? Or has it simply uncovered a deficiency that was always there, only to be remedied by proper education?