On a recent phone call, my son informed me he had read around 10 pieces from this blog. "Dad, I got bored and thought I could be watching HBO instead, so that's what I did." I took no offense. That he was reading them at all was a triumph for me. One of the reasons I decided to write this at all was to show my children I wasn't crushed nor was I going to just fade away into the night under a cover of shame and embarrassment. The other reason not to take umbrage was these comments were coming from a member of a generation which has raised the art of navel gazing to a sacrament, so naturally commentaries on politics, foreign policy, circumspection or theology will create a dissonance forcing them to look up and actually perceive what is going on around them.
This is now the era of the selfie. You buy a cell phone now, not to make or receive a call, but rather based on the quality of the camera...whether there is on the front and the back...the ease with which it allows you to take pictures of you. It gets even more convoluted. Studies show people don't actually want to talk to each other directly over the phone. They prefer to text or email or leave a voice message or post a message on Facebook than engage in actual live conversation. The phone is ordered for its screen size, touch screen, design, with its actual function as a phone a long, last, concern now resembling an electronic vestigial organ.
I find myself chortling at the irony of coming from the generation which grew up in the 60's and was accused of narcissism on an Olympian level. "It" was all about tuning in, turning on and dropping out...make love not war...yippies and hippies vs. straights...we had to have our own music and clothes (sort of dumpster chic) and our politics...we took drugs to turn inward and see ourselves clearly, allegedly. Today, "it" is all about taking pictures of myself and chronicling everything and anything I do.
I'm now officially the old, curmudgeonly, grumpy old man shaking his liver-spotted fist at the non-sense of his children's generation. It is a natural progression and flashing in front of me is Dick Van Dyke in Bye, Bye, Birdie singing about kids and why can't they be perfect like we were in every way. However, this obsessive need to share and over share with religious-like fervor still cannot be left without some comment.
Why would I care about where you ate breakfast, lunch or dinner today? Tens of thousands of pictures are uploaded to the "cloud" (oh come on you have to love the "cloud"...it now refers to some gigantic storage unit in the sky when for us it was a way to get a contact high in the back of someone's car or their bedroom) of what people ate at their latest meal. (the next logical progression is the uploading of what it looks like at the other end, an evolution not to look forward to with relish) The phone you don't call anyone on anymore tracks your every movement so your friends, and "friendly" big brother, can know what stores you frequent, restaurants you like, concerts you attend, political rallies you support. The phone which no longer has any connection to Alexander Graham Bell, is a game-playing, picture taking, electronic spying mirror which can be used to catalog every moment of your day. While the premise of all of this is it builds community...keeps us connected to each other...makes us feel social...the same folks who don't want to talk to each other...sit across from each other in a restaurant staring at their phones...refuse to make eye contact when they are pedestrianatiing (and now have to be warned by public service announcements not to cause auto accidents because of their inattention)...completely avoid any intimacy with anyone else. (they use dating sites because they can't "meet" anyone any other way)
The ultimate beneficiary of all this is corporate America. (you remember them don't you? They keep telling you they wont do any evil and only want to connect the world and are not at all interested in making money off of you) Samsung got huge returns by encouraging Ellen DeGeneres to take a "selfie" at the Oscars. (do you think she was paid?) Boston Red Sox slugger, David Ortiz used a Samsung phone to take a "selfie" with President Obama. All the mega data being created each day by all the texting and tweeting and pictures and sharing is vacuumed up by advertisers so they can pitch you, prod you, push you, play you into buying their product. (not to mention what the NSA is doing with all of this information) Facebook spent $19 billion to buy "What's App" to commoditize every "intimate" activity we have with anyone else. Hell, we don't even ask for directions anymore (something 60's men were supposedly very bad at) and now use Google maps to get from point A to point B leaving a trail of electronic bread crumbs for anyone to follow and observe. (ANYONE !!)
It is not surprising this kind of long form blog could be boring. Try and reduce discussions about health care or the Russian incursion into Crimea or the raging debate about same sex marriage to 140 characters. Is it possible young people are not more liberal on social issues, like gay marriage or the legalization of marijuana, than their parents, but rather just take a pass on anything not reducible to a tweet or a selfie?
Yes, I sound like my parents and their horror over Elvis' hips or the Beatles hair. However, watching an entire generation turn themselves into a product for corporate profit...observing the emergence of a device even George Orwell couldn't imagine...commenting on narcissism on steroids was too good to pass up. An additional benefit is it gave me a reason to write about my son, who I love, and the pride I have knowing that he is purposely reading some of this blog even if he gets bored.