Inform yourself so you can take action

You hear your phone vibrate with incoming texts, you constantly check Twitter, take frequent glances at Tumblr and spend hours scrolling through the never-ending “news feed” of Facebook.

We know the second that a celebrity dies, how our favorite television show is going to end before we see it, when the newest software update for our phones is coming out, and how many points someone we barely know just scored in Candy Crush. But is all this stuff really essential to know? Does it count as being up to date on everything?

It concerns me that a lot of college-aged students don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world—that is, what’s important in the world. When I sit down at a table to have breakfast with someone and they ask me, “Hey, did you hear about what’s going on in Syria?” weeks after the U.S. was contemplating using military force in that region, I think, how are you just finding out about this?

Now I know that civil wars in foreign lands, controversial healthcare bills and government shutdowns are not exactly cheery subjects and can seem boring, and yes, I’m a journalism student and I am interested in those things naturally, but I think it is important for our society, especially the young generation now, to pay somewhat attention to these things.

So why don’t people pay attention? I’ll often ask people if they watch any sort of news for any amount of time in their daily lives. When they say no and I ask why, the most common response I get is, “Because it doesn’t apply to me. So why do I care?” Well, it does. In some way or form, it applies to you and your life. I used to think the same when I was younger and realized that the world is smaller than a lot of us think. Now you are wondering, how can a government shutdown in the nation’s capital, which involves the very top leaders this country has, possibly affect you?

I sort of thought that myself when it was happening, but it never ceases to amaze me in the end. I tried finding statistics from a government website for an article in the last Oswegonian issue, and I got a blank gray page on my computer that said, “Due to a lapse of appropriations and the partial shutdown of the Federal Government, the systems that host nces.ed.gov have been shut down. Services will be restored as soon as a continuing resolution to provide funding has been enacted.”

The government shutdown, which I didn’t cause nor can do anything about, found some way to affect little me, in little Oswego, N.Y.

I heard complaints from other students on campus that they couldn’t do research papers without using government websites as credible sources. Who would think the Congress of the United States could prevent you from writing that history paper that’s due the next morning? Voting on raising the minimum wage will affect how much you will make in your future careers, Obama’s College Cost Plan will affect your student loans and the suspension of FDA inspections is affecting the food you eat. So it does apply to you. Now tell me how Kris and Bruce Jenner’s divorce applies to you and why you should care.

Now, I’m not saying to keep your eyes glued to CNN constantly or subscribe to The New York Times or use NPR as your jam while riding in your car. I enjoy human interest stories as much as the next person. It’s something that keeps the news business alive. But take a look now and then and see what exactly is going on.

Our generation has a humongous opportunity and advantage unlike any before us: we live in an age where there is an unlimited amount of information out there for us to see, and a lot of it can be accessed at the touch of a button.

Paying attention to important news and updates helps us learn how the world works. It helps us see what causes problems and what we have to do to fix them. This is important because someday our generation is going to be handed the torch to take over the office of president, seats in Congress, the police force and future businesses. Let’s try to not walk in with a deaf ear.