When your parents were kids, everything was a mystery. All of life was discovered by talking to people who knew more than them, and reading. Lots and lots of reading. And even when I was a little kid in the 80′s, that mystery still existed. I was the last generation raised in a time before Google. If something intrigued me, I couldn’t use my Dad’s tablet to find out everything about it on the web within five minutes of learning about it. So, as kids were oft to do in those days, I went to the library and would get books on things that interested me. And that entire journey, from discovering something, to getting to the library, to finding the book about said subject, and then ingesting the information, was the reward. But make no mistakes. It really was a journey. The irony was that it could sometimes take weeks from finding out about something to learning about it. And in those weeks in between, you could potentially be distracted by the millions of other things we all learn on any given day. Alas, like I said, I was the last generation that had to do that. And now, we have everything at our fingertips through the world-wide web, so the answers that children seek can be acquired immediately, with little-to-no struggle. While we may think that means that we are living in a world where children are getting smarter and smarter, you may be surprised to find out that is only partially the case. We are also breeding generations of people who demand immediate gratification, and the moment that comes inevitably unavailable to them, we can expect to have a world full of adults who have been programmed to throw tantrums, and we have no one to blame but technology and our lazy-ass selves. The real question here is whether it’s too late to change it.
The first thing you need to take into account is the fact that at some point, we will fall off the grid. If you think that seems scary to you, imagine how scary it seems to me? I am here, somewhat condemning technology in this piece, and technology is ENTIRELY how I make my living. I write here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and that doesn’t include any of my SEO stuff or my ghostwriting stuff, so if you think falling off the grid is scary because you won’t be able to see what insane shit Amanda Bynes is tweeting, I will be homeless, so it is even scarier to me. But not so scary that I cannot say I see it happening at one point, because I do. Why? Who knows. That is an even greater mystery, but to assume bad shit won’t happen because we don’t want it to is silly and a bit idealistic. I need the web, but that doesn’t mean anything from freak weather to some kind of attack on the infrastructure can’t happen, and any of those things could affect it. Which leads to my next point:
What happens when all of us, and moreover, the kids who are all attached to technology and grew up reliant on it, are suddenly forced to detach?
As much as we would all love to pretend that some new neo-hippie movement would form, and these kids would skip outside, hand in hand, and bring light and love back to the world by reminding us what it truly means to interact and be “friends”, that is NOT what would happen. The kids who have been raised on the tit milk of Google will suddenly not know what the Hell to do with themselves. Even the way they interact with each other has been completely taught to them by technology. How does a kid who has never really shown anyone he likes something without using a like button supposed to convey that? I know that you and I know the answer to that, but that child doesn’t. That child cannot be untrained and de-conditioned on everything he has learned up to that point.
And don’t get me wrong, I know technology has helped breed a generation of kids who are brilliant and passionate and worldly, but it has also bred a nation of spoiled brats.
So where did we go wrong?
Well, we are catering to this technology, and it is only getting worse and more and more necessary for modern kids and teens to survive. I will give you but one stupid and simple example for you to understand this. Flashback to 1991, and though the web exists, it does NOT exist how you know it today. Not even remotely. It is a weird place, filled with chat rooms and mostly blank screens. And the idea of Google maps or “GPS on every phone” did not exist, because every phone was still attached to the walls of homes. A young man makes plans with a young woman back in that era, and she gives him directions to her house. He gets in the car, with the direction handwritten on a napkin. She lives a half hour away, and about twenty minutes into this trip, he can tell that the directions do not coincide with where he is. The further he drives the further he gets lost, and in her eyes, he never shows up, but this was in a time before GPS AND cell phones, so there was nothing he could do but find a pay phone, plop in some quarters, and try to rewrite the directions right there as she angrily and hastily try to give them again.
In other words, all it took was one wrong direction written down and the whole night was off. Hell, you might have blown your whole relationship in that moment, depending on how severe it was. But, as much as that sucked, that built character, and helped us learn how to dictate and take directions. It was all steps to life.
And that is but ONE ASPECT of technology. Now kids have these phones with GPS attached, and you know what the result is? You have a generation of kids who have no clue about how to get anywhere because these machines have done it all for them. And not just directions. Every damn thing. There is literally an app for every damn thing, from tipping a waiter to calling a taxi. I can’t be the only person who sees something wrong with this, right?
And think about the impact technology has had on the art of the debate?
When I was younger, and would have a point that was different from what someone else said, it became a debate, where both sides would speak up their respective sides, and whoever was more sound was often the victor. But now, it is all black and white. Someone thinks the lead singer of Blind Melon may have sung on the Guns N’ Roses classic, Don’t Cry (which he did, by the way) and in the nineties, it would have been a discussion, like this: I think it was Shannon Hoon who sang backup on Don’t Cry. No, it couldn’t have been. Yes, if you see the video, you can see him singing the chorus at one point on the roof with the band. Oh, nah.
And it would go back and forth, and end up being a really cool, evolving conversation about music.
Now, one of the assholes busts out their phone, shoves it in someone’s face, and they move on to the next thing. No debate, no conversation, no changing points. Just a solid RIGHT OR WRONG, black and white approach that is suckling a great deal of fun out of the exploration of being a human. We are no longer the human “being”. We are should be called human “doing”, because that is. The constant reaching for the pocket. For the solid answer without the fun of speculation. Hell, half of us get “phantom phone syndrome” now, when we feel our phone vibrating in our pockets, and it is not even in there. You tell me nothing has changed, I will ask you when was the last time you slapped your thighs thinking you felt a non-existent phone vibrating in your pocket? Yes, that will prove my point.
Don’t worry, I do it, too.
And this has led to our final problem, too. All of us, but you will notice it is more pronounced with the younger the demographic, now have the attention span of meth heads. I am not writing that analogy just for the sake of humor, that is a perfect example. The attention span of an addict, itching and looking around for a next fix. Even Vine, (which I love), is fed to us in six second bursts. That is one thing you will notice about my site that sets it apart. Believe it or not, you are 1600 words deep right now. This piece, and most of my pieces on here, and not drive-thru meals. They are sit down, break bed type of portions. Between you and me, if it is going to be under 1000 words, I won’t waste your time on here.
And I do this for a reason.
Because I genuinely believe we all need to sit down and learn the art of the conversation again. Learn what it means to interact with more than someone’s avatar. But it looks like it is all only set to get worse and worse. From how video games look as realistic as movies now, to the fact that you can carry 120 gigs in something the size of an eyelash tells me we are living in a science fiction movie, and I don’t mean that in a good way. What we DON’T have is the hover boards and robot sex slaves. What we do have is all of us, turning into slugs, slithering behind our machines instead of actually “being human” with each other anymore. And the generations that are getting it the worst are the kids. As we devolve, they think it is all normal, and suffer as a result.
We don’t seek out knowledge anymore. We don’t better ourselves through interactions anymore. We don’t enjoy our food without taking a picture of it with a fuzzy filter to post on some social media platform, as if it will taste better in hindsight if people “like” it. Even what we “like” has changed so much, as a writer, I can’t use the word “like” without feeling the need to put quotes around it. But, in the same breath, we are adults, and a great many of us are just (d)evolving with the times. Even the example of me writing for a living. As much as this is my dream, I got seriously hurt in a car accident trying to protect some special needs kids (no, I’m not kidding), and only started working from home because I had to (best decision of my life, by the way), but even doing my dream job, I am aware how detached from humanity it is. And again, this is me evolving. What worries me, as ” The Simpson’s” as this will sound, is the children. What about the children?
Being weened on the electric milk of false likes, and not knowing that an actual hug, and an actual walk to the library to find a good book, is way better than a retweet. How do we convey this to them if we never say it? Well, maybe you can use this article to help say it.
It’s not too late. I wouldn’t be writing this if I thought it was.
Unplug your kids for a bit. Make them go for a walk outside. Tell them stories of the life we all lived BEFORE Google. Teach them to weave baskets underwater. Give them old photos of you and tell them to draw mustaches on them. Teach them to love music and art and nature. They don’t need to hate technology, but they need to know nothing beats the buzz of living, and they need you to be the one to remind them of that. to remind them of the most important thing: to detach from the machines every once in a while.
As fun and simple and as helpful as the internet and all of technology all may seem, it is spoiling them, making life way too easy, and in that process, making kids less and less “kid-like” every day.