Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Harnessing the Power of Texting

We all know that young people went to the polls in record numbers this year and were inspired by Barack Obama’s celebrity status. Damien Cave even dubs us “Generation O” in his New York Times article “Generation O Gets Its Hopes Up.” But how did the president-elect define Generation O, and then win its votes? Technology.

Just as Obama defied modern political expectations, his campaign set a new standard for how to reach voters. Obama and his strategists must have had a keen sense of modern culture, because they fully mobilized their online supporters. The Obama camp initiated a new era of virtual campaigning by raising funds online, rallying around Facebook groups and sending text messages to supporters.

I am most impressed by the text-messaging tactic. He really struck a nerve within my generation, taking advantage of one of our fundamental modes of communication. Cell phones are such a normal part of our lives that we often forget how new they are. And they are such a big part of our college life. While we seldom take a step back and realize how dependent we have become on our modern gadgets, Obama and his strategists recognized and exploited this.

y brother, who is only five years older than me, went through high school without a cell phone. Students a few years older than him went through college without them. Only a few years later, I can’t fathom how they lived without cell phones. Now, I wonder if there is any Georgetown student with a landline.

I don’t understand how college students made plans without cell phones. What if you hit up a Henle party when you were supposed to meet people at Rhino Bar? And how are you supposed to get buzzed in at Henle when the intercom is broken? On a more serious note, what happens when you get into a car accident without a cell phone? There are dozens of times of day when cell phones make our lives much easier.

Baby boomers beware: Phones are not just for calling anymore. Texting, for example, is God’s gift to college social life. What if you’re in a loud party and can’t hear anything? What if you’re trying to meet up with that random girl you met but aren’t at the “calling stage” yet? Or what if you’re at a lame party and want to look for something else to do without vocalizing your discontent? Or what if you just don’t want to deal with the formalities of typical conversation? Texting has been our crutch, saving us from awkward calls since its induction. And nowadays, who doesn’t have unlimited texting?

The innovation does not stop there. I’d say the percentage of students here at Georgetown with Blackberrys or iPhones is about the same as the percentage of young people who voted for Obama – a large majority. Whether McDonough School of Business students need to be checking their e-mails or someone wants to Google a random fact, these mini-computers have become our best friends. I pity the student who still has to struggle with predictive text.

Besides complaining that his fingers are too big for the small keyboard, my dad says he doesn’t especially like all this new technology because he doesn’t want to be constantly connected to the world. Quite frankly, I do.

We have ushered in an era of unprecedented communication. We are always in touch. We always know what’s going on. So what does this all mean for our culture? Cave notes that our texting and online conversations lead to “open-mindedness and consensus.” We are all tied together in a network of Web sites, cell phones and instant messages. With so much exposure to each other, it is only natural that our boundaries become porous, our phone books perpetually growing.

Our parents may think us materialistic because we are so heavily defined by technology. But Nov. 4 showed that technology can define us in more noble ways. Technology is bringing us all together.

Generation O, however, still faces difficult challenges, and technology can’t single-handedly solve all the world’s problems. Our idealism is likely to be deflated. I don’t expect Obama to be a perfect president – especially in these times – but at least he appreciates the power of the text message.

We know that everything can’t always go our way – cell phones break in the worst moments and get lost after long college nights. The solution to this? Turn to our other favorite mode of communication: a Facebook group, to ask friends for phone numbers. I wish the resolution to our economic crisis was as simple as that. Unfortunately Obama cannot just make a Facebook event with Medvedev, Sarkozy and Merkel to discuss policy, nor can he simply friend request Ahmadinejad to end all animosity. (We all recognize the weakness of a Facebook-only friendship.)

I don’t know what is to come of the Obama administration or what cell phones will be able to do next. I look forward to seeing both evolve. Text me in a few years, and we’ll “talk” about it.

Dean Lieberman is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at liebermanthehoya.com. RAVING ABOUT MY GENERATION appears every other Tuesday.

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