This is a rant, or maybe it’s a reassessment, but I think what we need in our society is a cross-generational platform to discuss and share where we all think the world is headed, because I’m having a lot of questions that many of you may be having, too.
Not sure what triggered this but there have been many things percolating in my brain and one was a random FB comment of someone who saw French Kiss again (read naïve American, lactose-intolerant tourist, Meg Ryan, gets embroiled with French con artist and body-odor loving Kevin Klein in France)—the comment: “amused by it but also amazed at how much our world has changed.” Has it?
In comes the Weltanschauung of the Millenials and the generation gap some of us pre-internet folks (i.e. the internet came relatively late to us: before we had texts and e-mails, we had faxes, telephones, actual physical and human interaction…) may feel. Lately, I have begun to think it’s a steep generation gap but some may refer to it as a digital divide.
Don’t get me wrong, and I am not a Luddite, but I am concerned, to name but one example, that publishers and newspapers are going bust because they can’t make a revenue model work on the Internet. These folks were the conscience of any nation, and while there are some great bloggers out there, do they have the quality control that newspapers and editors exercised to get the best possible, objective and factual content to the reader? And don’t tell me tenure in academia protects the conscience of the nation—academics care about their publications because they care about themselves while investigative journalists have been the real rebels, protecting the greater good. But I digress, because I was talking about Millenials, so who are these people who will inherit our world?!
Take issue with this because I am about to generalize big time: Millenials are people, who, when they apply for an intern position at a tech startup, ask if the position comes with stock options (true story). Conversely, they are also the people who start orphanages in the third world just to get into an Ivy League school. They read Reddit in lieu of the New York Times and they use Tinder to hook up (my mother used to call this prostitution, although there’s no money involved, so casual sex is probably the better term). In my generation, casual sex used to be ok for boys, but taboo for gals, but apparently, gals do it just as much as boys, so at least there’s gender equality on that front.
Millenials freak out when their cell phone gets stolen or was left at the local martini bar and they say Facebook is passé. They all take a computer programming class even though those classes were for nerds in the past. Mind you, they take those classes not because they want to program but because they want to have some superficial knowledge of it because lots of Millenials want to start startups and app companies. And they all want to be CEO from day 1, and not start in the mailroom and climb their way up.
They may take things to extremes. When they exercise, they want to compete in Triathlons and when they diet, they throw the contents of their entire fridge into a juicer. Their attention span has become more limited. Movies about artificial intelligence and people accessing other people through some weird kind of telepathy are cool, but documentaries about climate change, the dying bees and how fucked up our electoral system is put them to sleep after they have checked their phones more times than you and I do in an average day.
Binge-anything is a way of life. When they have to pull all nighters for a test, they may buy Adderall from their friends and for a reward, binge drinking and drugging yourself into oblivion is ok, because you’ve earned it. M&M’s parties do no longer revolve around receiving M&M’s as party favors but it means raiding your parents’ and people’s medicine cabinets, putting all the pills in a bowl and tripping on whatever you can grab or snort. Sleeping off a hangover is called me-time and if you can’t sleep, you can binge watch till you’re blue in the face through Netflix, HBO or whatever streaming service.
I worry about the narcissism, the ME-mentality, the way in which metrics (how many likes, how many LinkedIn connections) are defining our lives (this is one of capitalism’s great victories, I am sure) and the way in which we’re not relating anymore like we should, in a café, on a street corner, and delving deep into discussions, rather than checking out of the discussion because you just received a snap chat from your best friend (but is he your best friend?). Our real time is getting fragmented so much by our virtual existence that ADHD may well be an asset in the future, while focus is for losers.
However, the real joy in life sometimes is losing yourself completely in a novel like War and Peace (hundreds of pages; call it binge reading and maybe it will catch on?), and making that deeper connection with a friend because you happened to ask more, and more deeply (news flash: why do so many people go into therapy in this country? Because people don’t take the time anymore to socialize and REALLY talk with each other, like the elderly still do, in a market square in Italy, or at that street corner in that rural village in Japan).
The Internet is great and has brought us lots (data and metrics mostly) but as human beings we’re being eroded by social media—we’re losing some of our humanity, and that, in itself, can be a dangerous thing… plus… as parents of Millenials we’re shying away from discussions with our very own Millenials about these issues not in the least because time, all of our time, has become so fragmented too that we don’t make time anymore to have quality time and make the moment truly momentous.