If you’ve been reading the blogs of my boss, Pat McCormick, then you know he’s an optimist who views the younger generation’s contributions to evolving communication trends with open-minded anticipation. He bucks the stereotype of the technophobic member of the silent generation, and it’s this spirit of enthusiasm and youthful energy that made me instantly like him when first we met.
On the other hand, he’s wrong. Not about kids and their communications habits pointing the way toward the future. No, that’s happening, and we’re powerless to stop it. What Pat’s mistaken about is that this is a good thing.
When Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this year that he was changing the way Facebook’s messaging platform functions because some of his younger relatives told him that email is too slow, I rolled my eyes so hard that my spirit animal briefly changed from a badger to a pug.
How to put this delicately? If email is too slow of a format for you, then there’s something wrong with you, not email. If email is too slow for you, you should automatically get a prescription for Ritalin in the mail. If email is too slow for you, you should stop trying to write in sentences and just resort to a series of grunts and exaggerated hand gestures. This is technology as regression, not progress. It’s using new communication opportunities as a chance to unleash your inner caveman.
You know what isn’t hard? Typing a subject line. In fact, it might actually help you assemble your thoughts into something coherent, as opposed to the absolutely pointless, unfocused ejaculations that seem to pass for conversation these days.
Texting is your go-to communication method? Seriously? What is it that you find so scary about the human voice? And don’t even say that you’re too busy to talk on the phone. If you have time to watch “Jersey Shore” and listen to Justin Bieber, you’ve got time to talk on the phone or send a proper email.
Texting has a place. It’s for quick, pertinent exchanges of information. It isn’t for discussing the fate of your relationship or other important conversations in which the likelihood of misunderstanding increases exponentially.
Which reminds me, why would you take advice from a generation of kids that thinks low-rider skinny jeans are cool? Why listen to people who can’t discern between music made by artists in a studio and music that’s made with an iPhone app? Why listen to individuals who pay money, over and over again, to watch vampire movies in which the vampires are about as threatening as male models on a hunger strike and the female protagonist’s only goal is to court one of these anemic mope-heads?
So what if they grew up with the technology and are immersed in it in a way that my generation and older can’t understand. That just sounds like a lack of context and perspective to me. Because I remember a time before people conversed only by text, I can speak in complete sentences and occasionally put a paragraph together. I can make use of new technology without ever thinking that it’s the end-all-be-all of communication. I see a Tweet as a means to an end, and not an end in and of itself.
Sure, I’m stereotyping here. There are many young people today who are turning to vinyl as a reaction to my generation’s obsession with tiny technology. There are young people who are reading actual books and watching quality movies and listening to music that wasn’t popularized on YouTube. To you, I offer my unbridled respect. Being cool at your age takes even more hard work than it did when I was a teenager, and we thought Starter Jackets were stylish and Stone Temple Pilots was a good band.
This is an important point to make. There’s nothing inherently wrong with generations Y and Z. We all like stupid stuff when we’re kids. I liked Hammer pants, the movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and professional wrestling when I was younger. Fortunately, nobody was turning to me for advice at that age. The mistake we’re making as a culture is thinking that young people should be steering us. That’s what they call the tail wagging the dog.
Perhaps technology will eventually facilitate conversation that isn’t as brief and vapid as what most people say via text and tweet. Perhaps it will usher in a new era of democratized, personalized exchanges, as Pat suggests. Until then, we seem to have mistaken technological advancement for its own sake with true progress. While this willy-nilly dive down the rabbit hole might be shaping the brave new world one nano-second at a time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be a world any of us take pride in populating.
The upside, of course, is that introspection will by then have been bred out of the gene pool, and people will judge their quality of life by the richness of their tan and their ability to afford a variety of flavors of Axe Nutrient Spray, which will replace both food and deodorant by 2050.
Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping up with the technology so that, A) I don’t lose all touch with where we’re headed as a society, B) nobody can say that I fear it because I don’t understand it, and C) I can keep an eye on you lunatics so I don’t have to scream and gnash my teeth after the fact like Charlton Heston in “Planet of the Apes.”
Don’t worry. That reference can’t be lost on somebody who doesn’t have the attention span to read past the first paragraph. Put that in your phone and text it.