People These Days With Their Social Media and Their Phones and Everything…

person-computing

Written By The Dad

Aren’t you tired of people these days? Aren’t you irritated by all these kids with their narcissistic selfies, pictures of their food, and their “best” things “ever”? Aren’t you sick of watching them walk around with their heads down, earbuds blocking out the real world? Aren’t you weary of hearing about everyone’s cause and reading their sales pitches on social media? Aren’t you tired of the politics? Aren’t you sick of the sarcastic memes, the political rants, the endless arguments, the 6 second videos about nothing.

I’m not.

But, I am tired of all the complaining about it.

People Haven’t Changed

Each generation complains about the following generation while the younger generation calls the older generation old and out of touch. Nothing new here.

There’s probably validity to both sides’ arguments, but it doesn’t matter. People are going to keep having the argument until the end of the time (and, were it possible, time ending would be blamed by each generation on each other). There’s an element of “back when I was a kid we walked uphill to school in the snow both ways” to all the complaining about younger generations. Each generation seems to think they put in the correct amount of effort on the correct things, while this new generation is just a bunch of ungrateful slackers.

Even if the tools have changed, the worries haven’t changed because people haven’t either.  Here’s the perspective I’ve chose:

The Earbuds Don’t Bother Me…

People walking around with ear buds don’t bother me anymore. I used to see kids walking around with headphones in and automatically assume they were just drowning out the world with terrible music (as opposed to good music, which was created before their time). Or, I’d see people sitting on benches in parks or at tables in coffee shops with earbuds in and I’d wonder why they weren’t…I dunno…reading a book. Then I discovered audiobooks and podcasts. After college I went years without ever finishing a book. I easily average one book per month now, and I rarely even have to pay for the privilege.

I’m continually impressed with how many people listen to books. I’ve had numerous in-depth conversations with coworkers about topics outside of our jobs, just because we happened to share an interest and had read similar books. Only, we’re all parents with jobs and none of us ever read anything; we’re all listening on our phones during commutes, during workouts, while running errands, etc.

…Nor Snarky Memes…

Simple, snarky memes don’t bother me; they’re modern-day political cartoons and not much more.

Political Rants…

Social media arguments don’t bother me because they’re nothing new either; they are just digital versions of conversations we all have around the water cooler at work. They’re visual manifestations of the cable news and sports network shout-a-thons that have been around most of my life. I’m just glad we can still have the arguments.

In contrast, I’m encouraged that long-form discussions are growing in popularity. Anyone with a camera can start a lecture series, film a documentary or host interviews.  Educators, artists and thinkers from all walks of life flock to these shows to debate and discuss controversial topics, often for two or three hours at a time. You can tell people crave this kind of thing because an increasing number of these new shows are crowdfunded.

I’m also impressed at the growing audience for academic symposiums, TED talks and debates that go on around the country, and I love that so much of this is easily found online. There’s no limit to what we can learn and be exposed to without even leaving our houses.

The digital world has become the gathering place for critical thought and discussion, which is good, since the traditional venues (like college campuses) are progressively less tolerant of it.

…Short Videos…

Short, shaky, low-quality videos used to bug me because, c’mon do we all have ADHD? How much useful information can one pack into 10 seconds? A lot. Small businesses can share parts of their day to draw in customers, families and friends can share special moments and experiences, and anyone can tell a story.

I also love that anyone can report what’s going on in the world. Everyone can be a journalist because anyone can share information. We’re lucky we don’t have to wait for the following day’s newspaper to come out and tell us what happened, with their requisite spin.

We’re visual creatures and we can share and relate more in just a few seconds visually than we can in paragraphs of text. We also retain more that way.

…Or Social Media Agendas

People constantly pushing their businesses or their favorite charitable causes on social media don’t bother me at all. I like that we can support our friends’ endeavors even when we don’t live nearby.

I also love how easy it is access crowdfunding sites to help when someone is in need, and that larger charitable organizations can spread their word quickly and easily and make incredible difference.

Side note: And speaking of social media, I always chuckle when someone older than 40 complains about selfies, vacations pictures and snapshots of food. I vivdly remember “c’mon over and look at a slideshow of my trip.” The only differences are method of delivery and quantity.

Technology Isn’t Going Anywhere

Technology and mass media aren’t going anywhere any time soon. If anything they’re going to become more a part of our lives. With each change there are positives and negatives. I don’t want to be naive to the negatives, but I also don’t want to waste so much time and energy fretting about potential negatives that I forget to concentrate on real problems.

The Challenge

The challenge we have as parents and homeschool educators is to teach responsibility and critical thinking. Information is so readily available that it’s not always easy to sift through it and distill it down to what is substantial, meaningful and of quality. Just as spreading worthy causes is easier than ever, so is spreading misinformation and slander. Even when avoiding the mass media echo chamber it’s hard to avoid getting stuck in our own social media echo chambers of anyone who confirms our biases.

I hope to teach my kids how to use their tools responsibly fully realize the incredible potential each piece of technology provides.

As with everything in life…manage the downside but don’t limit the upside, and as best you can…use it for good.

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