On a more serious subject, I have been becoming more and more concerned about the younger kids I have been seeing for counseling and therapy. I realize that I am ‘older’ and was raised during the “baby boomer” years. I know too, that each generation has talked about the ‘decline’ of the children of the next generation doing crazy or unusual things. You know, the ‘music’ that seems strange to their parents or the ‘dress code’ that never matches what the parents think it should be and the ‘entertainment’ they want like those video games, that seems so different.
But I’m not thinking this current generation is quite like any of the others past. It isn’t about clothes, music, games, foods, or hair styles. What it seems to be about is a ‘disconnect’ with the real world. Maybe that’s not clear. Here’s how a young 15 year-old put it the other day: “My generation doesn’t credit anyone for being where we ARE today. We just got here ‘on our own’ and we don’t credit any parents, teachers or other adults for that happening. We are our own HEROES and we got here on our own. AND we want what we want when we want it and we don’t think much about what others want — we just go for what we want.” In addition, my young client added, “We live in a fantasy friendship world where we think we have lots of ‘friends’ but in reality, they are just fake names on our cell phone who we text or tweet constantly throughout the day. We rarely if ever really meet up with them to actually talk or do something together, we only text about it. AND we have very little idea what will happen to us as we get older….we don’t even see us getting older, just staying the same…well maybe someday getting older but that is far, far away. So, we just don’t waste time thinking about what will happen next year or in five years, just today.”
My young client talked about life being centered around “ME” and that “ME” was the center of the universe. The things that “ME” wants, “ME” simply goes after and doesn’t worry about what it takes or who it effects. It was certainly a day of food for thought in my world. And as I thought more about what was said, it seemed more clear to me that some of the other youth with whom I come in contact, express similar thoughts. I recently posed a question to a 19 (soon to be 20) year old client about regarding what they would be doing in 20 years when they reach FORTY years of age. The answer I got was somewhat surprising: “That’s TERRIFYING!” Thinking that was too far distant in the future for this young person, I revised my question to “how about 10 years when you are THIRTY?” Again, “THAT’s TERRIFYING TOO!!
In other conversations with this younger population, it is becoming more clear to me that something is missing, some connection, that previous generations seemed to possess. It isn’t about clothes, music or food, but it is about ‘relationships’. I certainly don’t have this figured out at this point but it seems to be that past generations, while they did have differing relationships with their elders and even with their peers, they DID HAVE RELATIONSHIPS with others. Granted they may not have liked the relationship or felt confined by it but they still had it. It seems that ‘relationship’ is becoming more and more faded or watered-down and maybe is even non-existent. Whether past generations liked the connection they had with parents or other adults and even their peers, they DID HAVE IT and it did impact their lives. They learned from it, how to deal with different opinions, and how to develop lasting and profitable relationships along the way. Previous generations knew the names of adults around them and modeled some of their behavior after one’s they admired. Even in cases where the ‘youth’ followed after a music star or sports hero that parents might not have approved, they did at least, follow something. There appears today to be an “I’m on my own, I got here by myself and I will take myself on wherever and whenever I choose to go without anyone’s help” concept developing.
The problem that seems to go along with this concept, however, is that major life changes are taking place and the adults and parents of this time appear to accept that is just they way it works and eventually all will work out. Well, from where I sit, it doesn’t seem to be working out. I continually find young adults in their late 20s and 30s who are “lost” and have no idea where they are going and what they are going to do when (or if) they get there. I see this developing even more so in the younger teenage group born since the late 1990s and into 2000s . Their information source is most likely the keyboard on their smartphone and is not connected to a real person with whom they can actually have a conversation. In addition, they rarely have real conversations with their own peers, merely texting someone (who them may only know as ‘buttercream309’) and doing that on a 24 hour per day, 7 day a week clip. Their digital communication device never leaves their hand. Let me point out that this does not include EVERY person born into 21st century but it is a growing number and is becoming more than less.
An interesting perspective of the parents of the 21st Century kids I encountered with a mother recently who scheduled her 14 year-old for counseling and when I asked about the concerns she had for her teenager, Mom replied, “Oh, I’ll just let (him/her) tell you”. After seeing the youth, I think I have some idea of the problem being faced, but none of it from the mother’s perspective or concerns. That seems unusual to me. As a parent, I think I would want my concerns to be known by the doctor, counselor or other helping person. Maybe that should be a question?
Don’t get me wrong here, I love technology and often use the internet to look up information, send and edit pictures, and communicate with family and friends. It’s a great tool. I guess the concern recently is that in this century (since we got internet and cell phones about the turn of this century) our direct, person-to-person relationships have become more distant, less frequent, and more digital than real.
I do know for sure that the greatest problem in counseling with couples today (married or not) is SOCIAL MEDIA. Married couples can’t have a meal without texting or emailing others. I look around restaurants and see people sharing lunch time together but are all texting or otherwise using their cell phones during the meal. They seem to rarely talk with others. And the secrecy of the communication with all it’s passwords and fake names is devastating to a marriage or relationship.
Where will this lead? I certainly don’t know. But it does pose a MAJOR QUESTION: Will we as humans eventually be unable to have, not know how to have direct relationships, face-t0-face with others without using digital and social media as our only resource? What if, one day, we want to do something that requires some personal assistance and we really don’t know anyone personally enough to ask for help? Probably that won’t happen.
I hope you will give it some thought. If you have some ideas, I think there is room here to comment. I would be interested in your thoughts. Or maybe I’m just a nutty old baby boomer who believes it is a nice idea to have a meaningful lunch talking with friends or dinner with a family sharing memories or accomplishments from their day. And not having to text, tweet, post or answer email during the time. Could be that it’s just me. But what if it is NOT?!?