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Graduates reminded of how the world has changed

  • May 9, 2016

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Michael Reschke

Speakers at Indiana University’s commencement ceremony Saturday morning at Memorial Stadium acknowledged that the class of 2016 has had a very different life experience than the people who were educating them for the past four years.

IU President Michael McRobbie told more than 6,000 graduates clad in black gowns that they are part of the first generation raised in the digital age.

“You have never known a world without the Internet and have never known life without hand-held mobile devices connected to it,” he said, “that many of you are using at this very moment.”

Commencement speaker and IU alumnus Jamie Hyneman touched on the theme in his speech, too.

“We live in a world where we’re judged by how many followers or likes we have, instead of what we contribute to the infrastructure of the world,” he said.

“I believe social media and the Internet play vital roles in our lives today, but it really shouldn’t obscure other priorities in our lives.”

Hyneman, who graduated from IU in 1981 with a degree in Russian language and linguistics, is best known as the co-host of the Emmy-nominated television series “Mythbusters.” For 14 years, he and co-host Adam Savage used science to test urban legends such as whether eating pop rock candy and drinking soda will make your stomach explode. It won’t, just in case you were wondering.

Hyneman said he was proud to have played a role in encouraging young people to seek out educations in the sciences and engineering, but there was another aspect of being on the show he wasn’t so fond of.

“The job required me to embrace, almost above all else, a compulsion to self-promote, which often caused me to feel I wasn’t being true to myself,” he said.

Hyneman compared his experience of being thrust into the spotlight to people in the world who do important work but who are largely unnoticed by the public. Author David Zweig called these people “Invisibles,” which is the title of a book he wrote on the topic. In the book, Zweig basically says it’s OK to self-promote, but the priority focus should be on having something worthy of promotion, Hyneman said. He continued by saying that simply doing good work is the key to success.

“Do good work, and you’ll gain followers, if that’s what you want,” he said.

Hyneman told the students sitting in rows of white folding chairs that when they go out into the world, it’s OK to be invisible or in the background. He told them it’s OK to devote themselves to things that the greater public may not know or care about.

“You define who you are, not other people,” he said.