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Belles look at effects of Internet

Caitlin Housley | Monday, September 5, 2011

For seniors at St. Mary’s College, it’s hard to believe the freshman class probably never heard the sound of a dial-up tone.

“I remember dial-up so clearly,” senior Kelly Golden said. “I also remember my family had to give us a time limit to be on the Internet so they could use the phone. It’s hard to believe that some students didn’t have to experience that.”

“Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!” is just one of the points on the 2015 “Mindset List,” a catalog of the cultural touchstones of each incoming college class released annually by two Beloit College faculty members.

Tom McBride, professor of English and Keefer professor of the Humanities at Beloit College in Beloit, Wis. and co-author, Emeritus Director of Public Affairs Ron Nief, have published these lists since 1998.

McBride said the “Mindset List” is a set of facts that have always been true in the lifetime of a freshman class.

While the “Mindset List” was originally created to help faculty become more aware of dated references, it soon became a catalog of the changing worldview of each new generation.

Points on this year’s list, including, “There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway,” and, “Their school’s ‘blackboards’ have always been getting smarter” recently sparked discussion on Saint Mary’s campus about the differences between the classes of 2012 and 2015.

McBride and Nief labeled the Class of 2015 the “Internet Class.”

Senior Briana Coyne said she believes the class of 2015’s generation depends on modern technology to stay informed.

“I feel like with the class of 2015’s generation, they immediately turn to the computer, Internet, texting, just technology in general as their first source to get information and to talk to people,” she said. “They rely a little too heavily on the Internet and technology, but it varies case-to-case.”

Some points on the class of 2012’s “Mindset List” included comments like, “IBM has never made typewriters” and “Caller ID has always been available on phones.”

First year Emma Anderson agreed that her class fits the label of the “Internet Class.”

“[My roommates and I] hang out in our room together, and don’t talk. We’re all just on Facebook,” she said.

Anderson said she doesn’t think the classes of 2012 and 2015 are that different in the ways they use technology.

“Four years isn’t that big of a difference,” Anderson said.

McBride said there is not a substantial difference between the two generations, but noted a few changes.

“A huge difference is that when the class of 2012 entered college, they were still an email generation,” McBride said. “It was not a generation that had discovered text messaging as the way to communicate nearly as much as the class of 2015.”

Senior Julie McGrail said the impersonality of communication worsens each year.

“There is lack of emotion with Internet, and I think that comes out in other areas of your life,” she said. “The class of 2012 definitely shows some signs of lack of emotion, but it is getting progressively worse as the years go by.”

But Coyne said balance is key when it comes to the Internet and technology.

“I think whether or not we become a lost generation rests on how we handle all of this possible lack of emotion in the workforce,” she said. “I think our generation [the class of 2012] will be okay, just in the sense that we didn’t grow up immediately with Internet, whereas 2015 pretty much started out with Internet.  They’ve constantly been trained in that kind of mindset.”

Regardless of the differences, McBride said, this is a remarkable time to live for all generations.

“Every generation goes through changing times,” he said. “It’s a fascinating time to be alive, I don’t think there’s any question of that.”