Every generation, something changes so drastically that previous generations consider it the downfall of [America/Society/The Family/Children/Religion/The World]. Right now, there is a “viral” video going around about how people use electronic devices to communicate – and it is destroying our children/their social abilities/America/society/etc.
When I was a kid, computers and video games were going to ruin my generation. They didn’t, as near as I can tell. Alternative music was a symptom of how lazy my generation was. Yet it was my generation, and the subsequent millennials, who brought about the Twenty-first Century computer revolution as we know it – we were the ones who embraced the internet, begged for alternative access to media. We are the ones who look at cable news and scoff, preferring to research stories ourselves and search out the truth. We were the ones who demanded online education, who sought out alternative methods for purchasing goods and services. We were the target audience for upstart new guys like Bezos and Zuckerberg. Ironic, if it wasn’t for that lazy generation who was being destroyed by technology, people would be unable to share how technology is destroying us today in such an easy and accessible manner.
Twenty years ago, my only options for publishing a book were to pay for it myself or get really lucky in finding the right agent and then right publisher. Today I can have a book published in multiple formats within 24 hours of completing it, and I retain upwards of 70% of the royalties on each sale – as opposed to 5-10% in the past.
Is the fascination with mobile phones, the internet, video games, and social media destroying American kids? Maybe – but not in the way you imagine. It is destroying their cultural isolation. When I was a child, my world was limited to Onalaska, Washington and the few dozen kids I knew from my school. Chehalis, only a few miles away but huge in comparison, was an exotic land to me. By the time I was a teen, I had access to the early internet. I was chatting with people from other states and other countries. My first meaningful interactions with deaf people, for example, was because Gallaudet University – a school for the deaf – had some of the best internet integration in the world at the time.
Kids today are growing up in a world where the boundaries drawn on maps are meaningless. A teen on the internet doesn’t really care what country you are from, other than from a purely curious standpoint.
Yes, the older generation has a right to be afraid: with the rise of the internet, their children and grandchildren have learned to question things that were otherwise taken for granted in previous generations. No longer is “because I told you so” an acceptable answer to all questions. When a millennial is told, “Because that’s the way it is” or “because rich people are job creators” when they ask why corporations get tax breaks, they don’t accept that answer – they google it. They talk to people in Europe. They look at data. And then they use that same internet to organize and protest. They stream their protests live.
Does that mean I agree with their standpoint? Not necessarily, but I applaud the way the world has changed and the way they embrace it. Because of the unprecedented way these latest generations have embraced emerging technologies, we will see technology grow with leaps and bounds.
The creator of Oculus Rift just recently reached the legal drinking age. People much older than him, and more invested in the old ways, told him Rift wasn’t possible. Now he is a billionaire, and his product is poised to change the way we interact with the world. Will the people complaining about texting be using it? Doubtful – at least not initially. But their children and grandchildren are already clamboring to get their hands on it. Their future is one where virtual reality, augmented reality, and physical reality are one and the same and indistinguishable from one another.
It is a future where we may get left behind, but that doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it part of evolution.