the plugged in generation

October 24, 2006

i have to respond to something i read on a friend’s blog:
“18-22 year-olds today do not know how to be alone. In fact, I think they’re afraid of being alone. I think they are probably mostly afraid of looking like a dork because they are alone.” –ejbilling.wordpress.com

i agree with my observant friend and must inform those of you who don’t know the rest of the premise for this comment, she was observing ku students with ipods, cell phones, and borderline obsessions with facebook and myspace. it isn’t just that students are afraid of being alone, i think they do not know how to be. for many of these students a television set or a computer was the defacto babysitter, even when mom and dad were in the house. or video games took the place of actual interaction with friends.

when i was a kid (and now i sound like every old fart who ever started a story about anything) but when i was a kif my brother and i had all kinds of opportunites to be alone, or to create our own fun. he played his drums, built huge cascading lines of parachute men throughout his room that would bombard anyone who came in, and created elaborate mazes and forts in our home and yard. i remember dancing around my room to debbie gibson and billie joel songs, a hairbrush in one hand, practicing for stardom, and living out my fantasy life with barbies who wore clothes my grandmother had made herself. by hand. from scratch! and when we played together it was often with neighborhood kids who came to our house to put on skits and shows in the back yard, or to play baseball or kickball between our yard and the schraders’ (who lived across the alley behind our house). we had two whole yards as a field and we were entertaining ourselves, without technology.

the plugged in generation has lost social graces, the ability to see themselves as less than the center of the universe, and yes, the ability to spend time alone, but i’mnot sure it is their fault. we have to use technology to it’s best end (and obviously i think blogging is a pretty sweet action way to use technology). we have to use it as an enhancement of life, not as a replacement of it.

finally, i don’t necessarily think kids are afraid that being alone will make them look like dorks; i think they are afraid to really know themselves and admit that they are dorks. everyone is a dork. i have said this many times and i’ll say it again: i took myself way too seriously when i was younger. everything was life or death, the original drama queen, i hung onto the faint whispers of would-be relationships and created wedded fantasies from them. i believed someone who was nice to me was my frined and someone who wasn’t hated my guts. i was a study of extremes and then one day i woke up and said “Shannon, you are a giant nerd. A dorky girl who likes books and Woody Allen movies and you spill things on yourself and make up lyrics to songs on the radio and you fall down a lot and if somebody is going to spill something at a party it is probably going to be you…and that is OK!” i accept my giant dorkiness, i embrace my nerdom. and when i am alone i am jsut as happy with that as i am in crowd, because i know myself, and the plugged in generation isn’t still enough to get the chance to.

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