By Yuki Inata
“I am going to study abroad.” “We are traveling to those countries.” “Which countries have you been to?” These conversations often taken place in this globalized world. However, it must have been different a couple decades ago. Even though there were some people who traveled around the world back then, the number of those who did that must have been much fewer than what it is now. What makes this difference? I suppose one of the causes that makes this happen is people’s thoughts towards other countries. I am studying in the US now. In terms of me studying abroad, I had a lot of different opinions from my family and friends. At that time, I realized that the opinions were different based on their ages. My grandparents and my parents have quite a few ideas in common, but my friends and people in my generation tend to have different ideas. One of the biggest social changes between my parents’ generation and ours is the Internet. Internet or media changes our perspectives dramatically in a widespread way, and their own experience or ones of someone closer to you affect individual points of view.
I interviewed my grandparents, parents, and my friends about their images of the US and researched whether there are somethings in common or different among the three generations. My grandfather said to me, “I used to have very negative images of America and hated it since we experienced WWⅡ. Because of the US, we needed to lead a severe and miserable life.” My grandfather was the oldest kid in his family, which means he needed to take care of younger siblings and support his family financially. Therefore, he gave going to high school and started working, even though his grades were remarkable in school and had the opportunity to have better quality of life by getting a higher education. At that time, he blamed America for the hard life. Now, he thinks it is history and he doesn’t have any hatred anymore, but still he is slightly afraid of America.
The same as him, my grandmother was scared of the US due to the stereotype of American having guns everywhere or its lack of safety. For her, guns are strongly connected to taking human lives so she cannot help but to be worried about it. Thus, she strongly disagreed with me studying in the US. She thought it was too dangerous for women to go or study there by themselves.
My parents have similar ideas and different ones. They were still worried about how safe the US was because of gun use or military. However, they thought that people were friendly, outgoing, and cheerful. They were concerned about the system of the US, but had a good image of the people. My friends have completely different ideas from any of them. They think that there are a bunch of classic and modern items or that everything is fashionable. Moreover, some talk about aspects which they are interested in, such as sports, fashion, music, and so on. Almost all of them say that it is one of the bucket list destinations because of their interest. Grandparents and parents’ generations tend to have common thoughts even though there are slight differences, and our generation has completely different ideas from them.
We collect information by using several tools. I believe that the ways to get to know about other countries are changing over times. According to Japanese Ministry of Internal affairs and Communications’ study on what media they use, my grandparents’ generation use newspaper the most. My parents’ generation use newspaper as well, but more people use internet compared to my grandparents’ generation. Our generation mainly use internet and barely read newspaper to gain information (Basic Date and Policy Trend). From this fact, we can see there is a very huge difference of the amount of information people get.
Japanese Ministry of Internal affairs and Communications shows the other significant difference between our generation and other generations is the number of people who watch TV. The population who watch TV is big in grandparents’ and parents’ generations. However, the number of younger people who do it is half as many as that of the other two generations. Instead of TV, we use the internet (Basic Date and Policy Trend). TV has limited programs as same as newspaper so that automatically those who watch TV have same input about things. On the other hand, internet enables us to access any information we want and search things without any limitation. Accordingly, it is easier to find interesting topics or have different perspective on America. Internet gives us accessibility to more information that matches each person, and people can keep discovering new things by themselves. Therefore, we can find a big difference on the images of America between our generation and the other generations. People’s perspectives started to change right after internet became popular.
There is another way to switch people’s opinions. After I left Japan and started studying here in the US, my grandparents and my parents’ images of America have been changing. Now that I am living here, which is away from my home and where my family has never been, I need to tell them that I am doing good about the life in the US to let them know here is not like the place that they are imagining. Being able to hear the real situations from those who they rely on or feel close to helps them get rid of negative thoughts. My grandparents tell me that they not only feel less anxiety about me studying in the US, but also, they are very interested in what this country is like right now even though they had their own bitter experiences in the past. They are taking more time to learn about America.
We are living in societies which are changing so quickly. In particular, the amount of information that people can get is increasing remarkably thanks to development of the internet. Younger generations are used to dealing with this plentiful amount of information compared to older generations. By using that skill, they collect information following their interest. Therefore, young people see the world with a positive attitude rather than negative perspective or prejudice. If they have unsavory notion, their ideas can be changed by their later experience or stories from significant others. What is obvious is having less information sometimes helps people hold unfavorable opinion on something based on their negative images. I hope this world becomes more and more peaceful by using information properly.