I know this isn’t right, but I harbor a distrust of, and distaste for, anyone who was born after 2007. Ninety percent of this is wistful envy. These soulless post-millennials will lose their virginity before me, start contributing to a 401(k) earlier, learn to code while their brains are still pliable. F them.
The other 10 percent of my misgivings have to do with the mobile revolution. That’s how I settled on 2007 as an arbitrary cutoff, the year of the original iPhone launch. If you literally do not know life without the modern cell phone, then you cannot possibly develop into a compelling person.
I say this with full awareness that my employer’s revenue stream depends directly on how much we can keep people on their phones. And even when I’m off the clock, virtually every second of my existence is spent within a 1-mile radius of my iPhone 6. In a way, it’s more like a prison cell than cell phone.
But I have more windows and air quality and perspective in my cell. I navigated my formative years without a phone as an appendage, and I am highly suspicious of anyone who can’t draw on the same framework.
This is because iOS and Android eroded three things core to the human condition:
The decisive difference between humans and the other living creatures we rule on Earth is what we do when we’re bored. Just watch your dog for a few minutes. A health care solution and self-driving car are not coming out of that brain. Neither are genocide and nuclear war, but the point is we operate on a singular level that no other being in our dimension can touch.
We have progressed to this point over the past few thousand years because of what our species chooses to do with its disposable time. Elon Musk likely does not devote much of his day to absentmindedly scrolling through pseudo celebrity Instagram feeds.
I am not suggesting we all can be Elon Musk. Most people I know (including myself) do not convey the impression of noteworthy potential. However, if you can’t go a day without Facebook, if the first thing you do every morning and the last thing you do every night is scroll through memes and baby pictures and vapid content curated by people no smarter than you, if that’s how you choose to wake to the world and retire to the subconscious, day in and day out, then you’re probably the kind of person who leaves a lot on the table in life.
Two articles for you, both shorter than this blog post. You still won’t read them, which is fine. You already know and agree with the ideas anyway. This one b-slaps social media:
“The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom. Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won’t tolerate such a long period without a fix.”
While that article highlights the ability to focus, this one celebrates the wandering mind. Phones kill the imagination. They take away the need to think, daydream and create our own stimulation. This, in turn, lowers the ceiling on perhaps the greatest part of the human condition: possibility.
How to Say No
At some very recent juncture, ignoring an invitation became the same as saying no. They are not the same. But an entire generation of kids is coming of age with the understanding that if someone texts you to hang out, it’s OK not to respond.
The world is a better place with ease of communication, but technology should not compromise a base level of respect for people you know. When I was growing up, if I wanted to see friends, I had to call or knock on a door. If they were busy or tired, they wouldn’t just hang up the phone or close the door without a word. It was acceptable to say no back then, and it still is.
I surely am not the only one who remembers calling up buddies on their family landlines, with numbers known by heart instead of Siri, and making awkward small talk with parents because we had to actually ring a doorbell and wait inside for a bit. There was something sweet about it in retrospect, character-building. Without the benefit of such experiences, these younger generations will turn out to be absolute savages.
Yet I am the one blasted for being a monster, someone with the nerve to decline an invitation in favor of laundry and errands. If we checked the game film, I probably drag myself off the couch-bench and into the social game as much as any friend of mine. The difference is perception because I have the courtesy to say no thank you when invited to something, while many people don’t bother.
On an unrelated note, I also have the courtesy not to ask who else is going. It doesn’t matter. All I need is you. There are only two appropriate followup questions to an invite:
1. Will there be food?
2. Will there be hot chicks?
Any other answer should be precisely that: an answer.
Back to dogs for a second. The nice ones generally like to lounge in proximity to people, even without much interaction and obviously conversation going on. Some humans are like that. They want to be around others all the time, but their idea of hanging out includes reaching for a phone every few minutes.
If kids are growing up like this, we might as well plug them into the The Matrix now. They will have no ability to sustain presence. Stop it. Just go home then. That’s not hanging out. Try putting away the phone for 20 minutes. If it gets boring, that’s a good sign you don’t really want to hang out at all.
When I’m with somebody, I struggle and labor to make conversation and expect help from the other side too. And when we both run out of things to say, we have to figure something out. Usually alcohol. That is human connection. It’s really hard.
I empathize with wanting to stay home most of the time. Even if you’re up for the challenge, the other people undoubtedly will capitulate to that itchy urge to pull out their phones because it’s just so easy.
This is why convincing me to go to a bar might require a PowerPoint pitch, but I seldom turn down sports invites. When playing a sport, you reach an enviable state in which the only other people that matter in the world at that moment are with you in a defined space. All you care about is how your body moves in relation to their bodies.
Mix in some small talk before and after, tons of endorphins, and what we’re talking about is not a whole lot unlike sex. Anyone want to play tennis Thursday?
Sports, erotic interplay, showers, Sharkeez unless you have AT&T and get reception… the gaps between sanctuaries grow every day. Things are becoming extreme. No fewer than four people dear to my heart are so addicted, they play on their phones while taking a dump.
Come on now. That is so unacceptable and you know it. Be better. Give yourself some space to exist. At the very least, be hyper-cognizant of the order of operations when wiping, washing hands, and touching your phone. God knows that same phone will be by your dinner plate more often than not.
Let’s not make 2007 an odyssey into a world with no space for self and imagination, no room for manners and conversation, no effort for bonding and unfettered listening. We’re only 10 years deep and really have no idea whether there might be some long-term harmful effects already set in motion. I refuse to ignore these things; I would rather say no.
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