Recently, I took a look at a mindset list published by an American university. It consists of a list of references that will help professors better understand the mindset of incoming students and includes some notable (and not so notable) observations.
For example, the fact that, to a child entering university this year, “Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa” seems a lot more relevant than the fact that said child was born after the release of The Silence of the Lambs. The list is obviously skewed towards American kids, but it got me thinking about a realisation that I had a while ago: that there is an entire generation coming of age now that has never not had the Internet.
Were I forced to deal with 18-year-olds on a daily basis, this fact would most likely be a major obstacle to me understanding their mindset, as it were. The World Wide Web has changed the way we think about information; we assume that any piece of knowledge is out there somewhere and, usually, all we need to do to obtain it is plug the right term into a search engine. This is not something I take for granted, and I have as hard a time imagining what it’s like to have grown up with this state of affairs as I have imagining television as an exciting new technology.
As I was composing this post, it dawned on me that my realisation could be coupled with an equally revelatory and far more sobering coda: in South Africa, where part of a generation has always had the Internet (in some form), a much larger part of that same generation may never have it.