|Lenox High Grads Cautioned Against Digital Isolation|
|By Stephen Dravis, Special to iBerkshires|
01:21AM / Monday, June 11, 2012
|Lenox High graduates make a ring for the traditional hat toss on the grounds of Tanglewood on Sunday.|
LENOX, Mass. — Odds are before the first celebratory cake was sliced
Lenox High valedictorian Christopher Bravo and salutatorian Lindsey Moran.
on Sunday, some member of Lenox High School's class of 2012 took the time to update his or her Facebook status to "graduated."
That is just fine with valedictorian Christopher Bravo — as long as the grad in question kept the virtual celebration in perspective.
"Awareness of the importance of real interaction is critical so that we can begin repairing our society," Bravo said in his valedictory address at Tanglewood's Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed.
And those "real interactions" are in real danger of being lost as virtual interactions become more pervasive, Bravo said.
He used his speech as an opportunity to remind his 64 classmates and the rest of the audience that humanity thrives on interdependence. And life in a world where you can order anything you want to be shipped to your door or "talk" to people you have never met provides an illusion of independence.
"This digital world also serves to isolate us and create a sense of anonymity that blends us into the crowd, when we should be distinct from it," said Bravo, who plans to attend Williams College in the fall.
That can be particularly true of the Facebook and Twitter accounts which Bravo noted nearly every graduate in the Shed can claim.
"As it is 'social media,' one could believe these are unifying factors, bringing different people from around the globe into contact," he said. "Yet, why is it that we can have over a thousand friends on Facebook and be terrified to speak up in front of our peers in class?
"The virtual relationships have become more prevalent than the real ones, which speaks to a large societal shift that has fundamentally changed the ways in which we interact with each other."
Bravo noted that life at Lenox High afforded opportunities for students to have meaningful, real interactions on the playing fields and in extracurriculars.
And he did not intend to disparage social media altogether, he said in an interview last week.
"The way I took it was I tried not to see social media as a good or a bad thing," Bravo said. "It can bring us together but it can also kind of isolate us by keeping us in the digital realm instead of the real world."
He encouraged his audience not to fall into that trap.
"We have the power to recreate and redefine how social interactions can occur," he said.
"Before, people often found that these relations were static and predetermined. Now, we see that we can explore new relationships, make new connections, and change the ways in which our society functions. If we are successful, we will be able to eradicate the separation and self-focus that permeate our culture today, allowing us to fully thrive in a society with unprecedented connectivity. Only then will we be free, from ourselves."
Bravo will have at least one familiar face making the trip up Route 7 with him in August. Lenox High salutatorian Lindsey Moran also is slated to attend Williams, which she chose ahead of, among others, Georgetown, she said on Sunday afternoon.
"I looked at other schools, but I always ended up comparing them to Williams," she said before the ceremony.
Moran opened the commencement by discussing the importance of perspective and examining how a student's point of view changes from elementary school to graduation day.
In their formative years, Moran and her friends had a bird's eye view, she said.
"We were on top of the world — actually, it was the top of the jungle gym," she said.
The innocence of those early years was replaced with a junior high perspective of looking right and left and worrying about what your peers are up to and think about you, she said.
"In high school, our outlook widened and tilted upwards," Moran said. "We put more stock in academics and began to think about futures.
"Today, we're not looking down, beside or up. Today we begin to look out. While we look ahead, however, we cannot abandon our past."