Staff Editorial: After SOPA, the Couch Potato Generation Comes of Age

The recent spectacle over the Internet piracy bills was difficult to ignore for American users of the Internet, a subset of which includes nearly all—if not the entirety—of our heavily-wired hilltop village.
The SOPA/PIPA drama came to a head on Jan. 18, when major tech companies advocated very prominently against the bills in their then-current forms. And by prominent, we mean prominent: as in Wikipedia effectively impounding their entire English-language stash of encyclopedia articles for 24 hours just to prove their point; or Google redacting—J. Edgar Hoover-style—their iconic four-color logo on their homepage.
By the end of that week, Congress—whose inboxes, voicemails, and offices were bombarded beyond capacity with citizen demands to halt the bills—was rapidly retreating from its previous leaning of support. It’s now clear that the SOPA and PIPA we once knew (and feared) are no more.
As a generation whose elders always seemed to fret we were spending our lives quite unproductively fixed to a series of successively shrinking screens, we might be forgiven for thinking that maybe the world was taking a turn for the worse because our high-tech addictions.
But American young people’s sudden rise to action in the form of congressperson-writing, reposting, blogging, demonstrating, etc. in response to these bills, we think, is showing otherwise. The collective concern shown by us early ‘90’s kids over their Internet means we aren’t complacent. It also means we don’t only care about keeping our precious music (illegally) free—not exclusively, anyway.
Being arguably the first generation to grow up with personal computing, we are shedding the images of unproductive addicts of technology to become socially conscientious stewards, innovators, consumers, appliers, and manipulators of it. We’re beginning to realize the power our relationship with technology can have in the world, and that’s a good thing.
The recent SOPA/PIPA fiasco is just the latest iteration of our powerful and symbiotic relationship with high-tech: Consider Occupy Wall Street, and its sister movements across the U.S. and around the world. It would not have been possible to stage, coordinate, and publicize such a massive movement without at least some that training trickling down from our wired childhood.
And beyond our borders, even after the government in Cairo completely disabled the Egyptian Internet infrastructure to prevent the spread of popular sentiment against the existent regime, young people and their tech-savvy overcame even this hurdle to bring about—miraculously, in a largely peaceful fashion—a nascent democratic government.
Our generation’s immediate agenda of (electronic) free speech and extending and maintaining the principles of social equality reflected by the decentralized structure of the Internet is a worthy goal in itself. One can only hope that this youthful drive for justice in the communications world can be broadened as we grow older to encompass justice in all areas for all people.
We still have a long way to go before us ‘90’s kids have matured politically, socially, influentially. But by the way things have been going lately, we’re well on our way, and it’s for the better.
How’s that for a bunch of couch/computer-chair potatoes?

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