I’m currently sitting in my “New Media & Society” class. I’m surrounded by fellow Sun Editors and other friends in a class of 100 or so people. The thing is – no one is actually “here”. Sure, we’re all here physically – sitting in the seats, facing forward, and seemingly attentive, but in actuality, the people around me at least, are all busily managing something else. Blackberrys and other “smart phones” in hand, The Arts Editor in front of me is reading through his section in the paper today to make sure there weren’t any errors. The columnist next to him is managing her social network and the girl next to her is making sure the CUPB ads for Tracy Morgan are good to go. The News Editor two rows in front of me is checking on the coverage for an event tonight. Me? I’m simultaneously texting the photographers and Blackberry Messaging the Arts Editor in order to make sure an Arts assignment is covered while shuffling people around because only one of today’s photogs can work. (aside: my Prof just started singing Hot Hot Sex).

So what’s going on here? The interesting thing is: we don’t have Internet in this class. Wi-fi doesn’t reach this end of this ancient building. We’re all texting away on our Blackberrys, checking email, reading papers, typing on laptops or organizing our planners, all while appearing to pay attention to what our prof is saying. Class is just a venue for us to sit down and continue doing what we were doing before it started and what we will keep doing once it’s over – running things. Maybe it’s just because of the company I’m in in this particular class or that the fact that I’m a junior now and by this point my classmates and I have reached the leadership positions on campus that require us to re-prioritize our time or multitask more than ever, but it seems to be that thanks to the growth of Blackberrys and the like, student leaders like myself are better able to manage our roles, but at the expense of our “academic” selves.

A quick poll of the people around me shows that we can’t even remember the paper we wrote for this class just before spring break. What was the topic again? I vaguely remember writing the paper, or thinking about writing the paper, but did I actually do it? Some even handed it in late because they were stuck at The Sun until late and the all-nighter they pulled proved fruitless. The exam they have later today? They haven’t even begun to study.

Are we reaching a point where students are no longer students, but campus leaders who happen to go to class in their spare time or who go to class simply to have a place to sit down and grub the wi-fi? What’s the point of going to class is we’re not paying attention? I have no idea, but I know if I don’t get these text messages out soon, I’ll have a lot of angry Editors to fend off and a bunch of offensive emails to sort through tomorrow from some of The Sun’s thousands of readers if the paper comes out with below-par photos.

I know I’m paying an arm and a leg in tuition for each minute I sit here in this lecture hall, but the argument is also very strong for the experience I’m getting as the Photo Editor. I’ll be able to use the skills of time and people management for the rest of my life. The popularity of “Chocolate Rain” versus “Leave Britney Alone” or the number of people who watch American Idol online versus live on TV? That information will only be useful in certain settings. While there is certainly a lot I can get out of this class – after all, I am planning to have a career in something Internet-related and knowing the demographics and sociology surrounding it is surely important, what good is it if I can’t get a job because my resume isn’t diverse enough?? If a Google search for my name doesn’t show me in a good light?

These are the concerns of the 21st century student. Or at least the concerns we face when an Internet connection isn’t available – don’t even get me started on that side of the story. They’re concerns no other student has ever had to face, but they’re concerns we’re taking on with heads held high and noses to the grindstone, as sleep deprived as we may be. These are the concerns that will, in the end, either prove to make us the most successful generation or the most burnt out generation. We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.