The Nation's Pulse

Ignorance Is This

Generation Y in the war between Twitter and Chief Justice John Roberts.

By 8.13.10

Send to Kindle

If my generation doesn't wake up, it'll drown itself in a sea of debt and depression, both economic, and perhaps, mental. Tweeting all the way to the black vapid bottom, no doubt.

A recent Pew Research Poll found more people age 30 and under knew what Twitter was rather than, in appallingly descending order, which President enacted TARP, who the Chief Justice of the United States is, and who serves as the current Prime Minister of Britain, respectively.

In an earlier July poll, nearly 60% of 18-29-year olds still planned on voting Democratic in the midterm elections and roughly half of that percentage are "closely following campaign news."

The two polls may be separate, and the questions, different, but the results are anything but mutually exclusive.

Starting with Twitter v. Chief Justice Roberts. Don't get me wrong, I love Twitter. While I refrain from Tweeting myself, I follow several people whose opinions are important to me, whose recipes I crave or whose observations, in the thirty seconds it takes to read them, make me think, laugh and even cry. I get nearly daily Tweets from Rick Bayless, arguably the best American chef cooking Mexican cuisine in the United States (and no, he didn't Tweet from the White House while a recent guest chef for the visiting Mexican President), to Slate's Dahlia Lithwick (on whose legal opinions I vehemently disagree but whose writing voice and brilliant mind I admire).

Twitter is to messaging what blogs were to the Internet. Its fast-paced form is lucid, vast, and open to venom and to veracity simultaneously. It's the beautiful result of what happens when the need for rapid communication and the beauty of capitalism collude.

It may replace forms of communication, but it doesn't replace knowledge. I'm not talking about what Alyssa Milano Tweets about the new (and hysterical) Old Spice commercials, or what kind of knife blade John Mayer just Tweeted about and ordered for a member of his band while drunk. All that is amusing and entertaining, both of which have a place in culture. But I'm talking about information which aids your view of subjects from politics to religion to education to music. There's nothing humorous about a generation that doesn't even know the head of our court system or who's running one of our most formidable allies.

It's no surprise, then, that this same age cohort not only knows little about the world of politics, but more than half plan on voting Democratic (if they do vote). They're too busy Twittering to flip on a news channel or read a candidate's issues page online. If they did either of the latter, they'd know Democrats aren't going to do anything they'll want to Tweet about in the next few years (save for how broke they are because they're over-taxed, or how sick they are because their free healthcare "sux").

John Adams had it right when he said: "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

If Adams had Twitter, I'm guessing it would have landed between poetry and music on the list. Before you label me a kill-joy: Every moment of life doesn't have to be spent reading the New York Times (God forbid!) or following a political candidate, but this generation doesn't have to feign interest in events and politics that shape this country and the world. No wonder it keeps electing people who keep passing legislation that keeps harming both. 

Many use Twitter to pass along valuable information and persuasive slices of belief. It can be a wonderful source through which to pass along thoughts that provoke thinking. If this generation does practice thinking, it's not reflected in its votes. I'm not even insinuating its members should or would immediately starting voting conservative if they did to more thinking, but poll after poll proves older, more educated, less-Tweeting populations do. Perhaps therein lies the issue. Maybe education is the battle, not Twitter. 

Still: It'd be such a relief, such a finger in the faces of those wise and aging Baby Boomers, a see-I-told-you-so moment, if this generation started Tweeting about things that matter, in addition to things that don't. If they started thinking about politics and not just their peeps. Maybe instead of waiting on the world to change, they could start to change it.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Nicole Russell writes from Northern Virginia.