Throughout history Western society has produced counter-cultural shifts that have redefined society as we know it today. The Flapper Movement of the 1920s, the Anti-Establishment era in the 50’s and 60’s and the Anti-Culture of the 90’s. Does this mean we’re due another? What might it look like today?
In the 20’s it was sexual equality, some of which we’re seeing again today with #MeToo and the fight for equal pay. In the 50’s and 60’s it was racial equality in the U.S and complete establishment rejection. In the 90’s it was more of a cultural rebellion. If we skip to the Millennials and their children, what kind of rejection could we see in the future?
In the current generation of teenagers, there is already a noticeable surge in the rejection of alcohol, an uptake in veganism and a shift towards environmentalism. All of which are pretty positive, but in the past it was a rejection of the current adult status ideals. So what does this mean for the children of Gen-X/Y/Z?
This was something that had been turning around in my mind for a while ( you get a lot of think-time when building ) and something I saw while scrolling through Flickr struck a chord;
“Offline is the new luxury”.
Recently the World Health Organisation classified Video Game Addiction (VGA) as a recognised disorder, which largely affects the digital age generations (X/Y/Z), including (and probably the most aggressively) today’s youth. I started thinking about the societal impacts of digital addiction in general, social media, youtube, media streaming, smart phones, smart cars, where does it end? Perhaps the next societal rejection will be of technology, perhaps offline is the new luxury.
It’s not hard to find stories of people growing up in broken homes, family units missing one (or more) parent, through either death, divorce or denouncement and the pain that puts the individual through, literally as an existential hangover for their entire lives. These people are reminded everywhere they look of the family member that will forever be missing. But what if that family member is present and absent due to a video game or other digital addiction? What does observing that parents’ addiction teach that child? That total digital absorption is ok? What might it be like to have a parent that you never truly knew, because they existed for online, not real-world interactions?
So my thoughts turned back to these generational societal shifts and it made me wonder. It may well be that the technological addictions of current/future generations define the rejection of tech, in future generations. We’ve all had/seen the statements; “I’ll never raise my kids the way my parents raised me..” – “My Mom/Dad was an alcoholic, I’ll never touch it, I’ve seen what impact it had on my life as a child..” – If VGA is a true addiction, which according to the WHO symptom classifications, includes; “continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences” – then surely it’s a possible outcome.
Perhaps “online life” is a generational fad?
Vinyl, Cassette, DAT, VHS, Laserdisc, Compact Disc and DVD all have bitten the physical media bullet over the last 50 years, even movie theatres struggle to maintain an audience. Phone conversations have been replaced by text, even email is considered old-hat with facetime, instant messaging and social media all acting as nails in the tech revolution coffins. News is instant, whether you want it to be or not and every meal is Instagram’d.
There comes a time where you have to question what that does to mental health in general. We, as adults, are able to digest each digital actions’ relevance and rationalise the necessity or humour behind them, but, what about a child who hasn’t ever experienced life without these digital actions? A child who grew up, tablet in-hand, who doesn’t understand that it’s optional, because it didn’t seem optional to their digitally addicted parents?
“I smoke because my parents both smoked, our house was always full of smoke when I was a kid..”
Is a digital existence the new nicotine? The new caffeine? Can you wake up without reaching for your social media and coffee? If you can’t and you grew up without an “eLife”, what chance do new generations have? Perhaps generational rejection will answer that. Maybe the clock is ticking for the Social Media giants.
“Mother is God in the eyes of a child.”
Let’s hope our children grow up to realise that online is optional, but not at the expense of their childhood. If you have a wide-eye’d child, to whom you as their parent are the epitome of their ambition, and have ever told them you can’t come do something because you’re busy online, close this browser window, turn off their tablet and show them what it’s like to be real.