December 6, 2012

Dear Young People: You’re Doing It Wrong

As a child and young teen growing up in the 90s, seeing young people walk around with a bit of a slouch and hung head is nothing new to me. After all, my generation played this game best. The 90s were all about irony, with a dissatisfaction with the system and the overwhelming “done-ness” with all that was corporate advertising. It was a point of pride, really, to see who could care the least, who was least moved by anything either “beautiful” or “mainstream.”

We loved being so detached and dissatisfied that we started our own genre noted for creating huge walls of drone-y, relatively unattached sound and called it, appropriately so, Shoegaze.

Now that I’ve aged myself, I feel comfortable in making the following statement: Kids these days aren’t doing it right.

Sure, they’re still hanging their heads and playing the part of the Disinterested Teen, but they lack the follow-through. Rather than make a statement with their angst, they’re only waiting for the next funny viral video or break out dub step dance hit. This will hold their attention for the next few minutes before they go back to staring lifelessly at the floor.

And they aren’t staring with lifeless, vacant eyes because they’ve become overwhelmed with the kinds of messages being hurled at them in advertising; They’re malnourished and cracked pots, waiting to be filled with sugar water only to have it leak out moments later.

This is why they’re looking at their cell phones 60 times a day and sending more than 100 texts.

Last week, Dr. Roberts, a Hankamer school of Business professor at Baylor University, released a study which found that, not only are these young people (college students and younger) incessantly checking their phones, they’re also doing it even if there’s nothing to check. This led him to draw the conclusion that these phones are more than just a way to consume even more than we’re already accustomed to, but they’re also “eroding our personal relationships.”

What’s worse, it isn’t just the teenagers and misguided college freshman who are constantly praying to their smartphones to fill them with the sugar sweetness once more, but it could be happening to us all.

“At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cell phone use as merely youthful nonsense – a passing fad. But an emerging body of literature has given increasing credence to cell phone addiction and similar behavioral addictions,” said Dr. Roberts.

The young people, it seems, might have it worse. A majority of the young people he spoke with said losing their cell phones would be “disastrous to their social lives.”

No matter how “wrong” they’re “doing it,” we can’t blame the kids for becoming zombies at the throne of consumerism.

The road to this state has been paved with our own hands and with actions far too complex for me to delve into in a simple blog.

The older set hasn’t only led these kids to this throne of consumerism, we’re also sneaking our own glances.

Other adults have also noticed this erosion of personal relationships and have even come up with clever ways to combat it.

One restaurant in LA has even begun offering patrons a discount on their meal if they check their cell phones at the door, a move to “create an ambiance where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company.”

A game has even been created to force friends into having a real conversation with one another at the dinner table. Aptly titled “The Stack,” diners are asked to place their mobiles in a stack in the middle of the table. The first to reach for their phones during the meal (emergencies not withstanding) has to foot the bill for the meal.

I’m a proud child of the 90s and stand by my statements about today’s youth and “doing it wrong.” However, there is still some hope for this younger set.

After all, a 20-year old woman from California has been credited with creating “The Stack,” meaning there’s at least one good one out there who refuses to return to the altar of consumerism and cheap thrills.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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