‘Today’ is not your father’s Oldsmobile

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“There is a world of difference between being 17 in 2008 and being 17 in 2013. There’s no comparison.” That’s what my daughter Amelia commented as she compared her brother Carl’s world today with her high school days just a few years ago.

Amelia’s quote was a Facebook post of mine recently, and I haven’t been able to quit thinking about it. My daughter made that comment when I told her that I felt like technology was racing by so fast that I felt utterly lost – like I was sitting in the back of a bullet train watching the horizon disappear in only a matter of seconds while I was still trying to look at the scenery on the side of the track, spot wild animals and generally enjoy the view. All I get is one big blur.

The problem is that I am just enough in sync with the technology to at least have a clue how much I am probably missing and to also get that once my last child goes to college next year that my primary link to all of those changes will go with him. I can’t tell you how much contact with him and being able to observe how he and his friends have embedded the technology into their daily lives has spotlighted the magnitude of the impact of the technology.

Everything is instant. Everything is public. Everybody has access and information to or about everybody else 24/7. Thank you Twitter, Facebook, texting, Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, Tender, Lulu, Soundcloud and so on. The technology flavor of today will be displaced by new technology tomorrow, or this afternoon – or maybe in the next 15 minutes. Facebook is almost extinct to the under 20 set, and no one but Baby Boomers even uses email anymore.

Interpersonal information – chatter among peers, friends or complete strangers, good, bad, accurate, distorted, distilled, edited and unedited – flows freely and is updated frequently by the minute. Everybody talks to each other or about each other. And when there is weather, there is no shelter from the storm, no place that stays dry and no place to escape from the tsunami of connectivity. Staying dry, or staying grounded to traditional ballast based on interpersonal relationships facilitated by traditional connections, is at risk and probably lies somewhere off to the side of that bullet train track among the weeds and discarded soft drink cans.

Staying grounded, I think, is what concerns me most. We all know how significant a role that peer pressure plays in society – particularly with young people and especially teens. Recall the impact of that pressure when you were in school growing up – the pressure to drink, to date, to dress one way or the other, to own certain things, to take risks or do foolish things. Remember how clique-ish kids are and how cruel those cliques could be. Now multiply that peer pressure or the power of those cliques a hundred fold and you have an inkling of what is out there in play where our kids are trying to be kids and have a childhood. But be quick about it or your inkling will already have become yesterday’s news – stale and irrelevant. Text me if you have any comments or thoughts on how we can help our kids cope – 770-527-4042. Or, if you are old like I am and still use email, then email me at Appen@NorthFulton.com.