Normally something like this would wind up on my personal blog, but I think it is very apropos for the theme of Getting Out More and what it stands for. At the risk of sounding like the old man shouting at kids to stay off his lawn, I’m going to complain about what is going on with electronic devices, and precisely why we are doomed as a civilization.
It might be a problem telling the kids to get off my damn lawn if there were any kids actually on the lawn or doing anything other than staring at their freakin’ phones anyway.
My day job is as a staff member at a small University. For the last 18 years, plus four years as a student myself, I have seen a cross-section of collegiate life most people haven’t experienced themselves. From the boozy first weeks in the dorms with kids being hauled off to detox for alcohol poisoning, of the mid 90s to today–where..well, kids are on their phones.
All the damn time.
One of the things I was never told about college until it was too late is that it isn’t about showing up, getting good grades, and staying out of the persona non grata list with the Dean of Students. College is about making connections. So all of those irresponsible screw ups who were out partying too much and showing up hungover to work and class likely have better jobs than you do. The reason being that they went to parties, make friends with other people whose families had connections or influence, and then they networked the hell out of their limited skill set until they got into a position where they were making six figure incomes, even though they don’t remember what Avogadro’s Number is or the impact of Balkanization on events preceding World War One.
But I saw something scary the other day. Truly scary. I went outside to enjoy the nice weather during one of my breaks, and it was a passing period between classes. There, I was greeted with a nearly post-apocalyptic landscape of about 40 students. It was as quiet as the goddamned grave outside. Students were sitting around, standing, none of them saying a word to anyone. Each of them completely sucked in to whatever they were looking at on their phones.
I couldn’t help but think of the moments of my young, single days in college and wonder how people are going to keep the human race going if they aren’t breeding. Because part of breeding is actually looking up from your electronic device and catching the eye of someone who thinks you might be remotely attractive, and through time they might consider spending time with you and possibly combining DNA molecules after a somewhat complicated courtship ritual in order to produce offspring.
I really don’t see that happening.
But what is worse is the adults I see who have spawned and their resulting issue are caterwalling at a TGIFridays at 5 in the afternoon, sitting in a booster seat, crying as if they just witnessed the execution of the family dog at the hands of terrorists until one of the parents tosses an iPhone or iPad at them. Immediately, they go slack, pudgy, jelly slathered fingers somehow able to navigate the complexities of a puzzle game or probably a Dora the Explorer video on a touch screen, when they can’t even figure out how to get the french fries in their own mouths, much less how to stop shitting their pants.
The parents somehow produce more phones and electronic devices and their shoulder go slack, their eyes glaze over, and I cannot help but wonder if a sudden lack of wifi or battery power was the moment that provided some opportunity for an angry, primal exchange of bodily fluids out of sheer frustration for these two human beings to meet and copulate sufficiently to reproduce in the first place.
Even as an adult in your forties, you will notice that if you are at a party with friends, about 45 minutes in, everyone will get tired of speaking to other people face to face and check out of the conversation in some weird somatic response of checking their phones and social media.
When I was a kid in high school, we used to cruise up and down main street in our cars. We did this with out friends. This was our form of social media. The last time I visited my hometown, I noticed it was 8 pm on a Friday night and the town was completely dead.
The problem is that everything is always better that is happening someplace you aren’t. We jabber with people half a world away, searching, longing for something better than what it is we are doing. But it isn’t a lot better. Now we have “influencers”. People who are doing things on Instagram and Twitter and other social media venues that we look at and say, “I wish that were me.”
But it isn’t. Because this is you. Staring at your fucking phone.
It isn’t hard to get out more. And the benefits you will reap far outweigh the risks and expense. Even something as small and simple as just being present in your mind and enjoying a moment. Not even documenting it. Which will bring me to my next post.
You never know what kinds of interesting people you will meet if you just stop checking your texts or Facebook feed. You can take my word for it, or show a little courage try it out yourself.