I first went to college in '93, before wide-spread cell phone usage and internet for the most part (my dad wouldn't spring for Compuserve or AOL). My room had a phone that we paid for with a university card, unless you were canny enough to figure out how to use someone else's card to get free calls (perhaps someone who had dropped out and not canx'd it...) I had my dad's old 8088 with a 5" monochrome CRT and a 9-pin dot-matrix for banging out papers in my dorm room, and iir the best systems were pc towers that could play apache sims and of course, the college's computer lab full of apples. I spent countless hours there playing Civ off a 3.5" floppy...
Anyhow, I'm now attending college again in the age of cell phones and ubiquitous internets. On one hand I am horrified at the sheer number of kids walking around like zombies, barely aware of their environment, but on the other, I can understand that it's how they grew up, always connected, so it's not entirely their fault. And yes, I do vaguely remember how "zombified" kids back in my day seemed with their walkmans and diskmans, but at least then it was only your hearing that was impaired.
Heck, even these days I feel a little guilty if I leave my cell at home when I drive out to the quickie mart for only 10 minutes--in the back of my mind, I'm thinking "holy crap, what if something happens! Nobody will know!" At the same time I often think WTF. We got along JUST FINE without all this connectivity for many, many years and no one thought anything of it unless you were super-uber late to something. My wife reads me the riot act if I don't answer my cell or a text: "you NEVER answer your cell!" And have to remind her that a) maybe I was driving or b) maybe I was taking a nap or c) maybe I was in the freaking SHOWER (and not ever d: maybe I just didn't want to talk to you).
It's sad, really. Our time isn't ours' anymore. Used to be that I'd wear a pager during working hours and I felt so relieved when I could take it off at the end of the day and not have to worry about being bothered by work, Used to be I could go for an hour long drive and not worry about whatever catastrophe what might be brewing in my absence. I sincerely miss being able to unplug, because now when I want to, it's cause for scrutiny and not the status quo. And that's the part that really sucks going back to college nearly 20 years later-- I'm only 34, fer chrissakes, but I must seem like some sort of dinosaur to these kids today when in reality it was my generation that saw the whole evolution of todays "always connected" culture unfold before our eyes.
Come to think of it, this is nothing new. Kids and young adults have been entranced by new tech or "stuff" that is often seen as a mystery or even a menace by their predecessors for decades (if not centuries); think rock'n'roll, the previously mentioned walkmans, hell, even the first cars, or the first whatever. IMHO, the only thing that is new about this is our ability to communicate this shared awareness of what is going on in new and previously unheard of ways.
Sorry for the novel, I've been thinking a lot on this as of late. Here's the TL;DR:
TL;DR: Oh noes! It's the end of civilization as we know it! No, wait. It's the same thing that has happened before and will happen again when each new generation comes of age. It's mystifying and slightly alarming to watch it happen from the sidelines but perfectly normal for those who have known nothing else. While I miss what once was, what has replaced it is not necessarily bad. Just different. Cheers~