“When I was your age…”

Everyday

As I reach the last semester of my senior year in college I have come to the realization that I am getting old. Next month I turn 22 and I will be expecting my AARP card in the mail. I know that to some people I probably sound like one of those obnoxious youths who gripe about getting wrinkles or freak out that they are already mid-way to their mid-twenties. But that’s not what I’m going for at all. I feel like my generation actually “ages” faster than the ones in the past. Just look at how much faster the world changes now!

I remember VHS and cassette tapes. I remember when you had to start dialing area codes for phone numbers (and believe me, my 9 year old self felt very overwhelmed by the addition of three whole numbers!). I remember when Sketcher’s were cool and I would kill for the chance to try to assemble the Shrine of the Silver Monkey on TV. I remember when cell phones were in black and white, could be used as a weapon if ever attacked, their value depended on whether or not they included the Snake game, and they belonged to your parents. I remember getting the Internet for the first time and I used to have the AOL dialtone memorized. I remember when “fat” was spelled with a “ph” and actually meant something (although to this day I cannot tell you what it was). When I was “young”, pen pals were totally boss, Instant Messaging was the only text message you could afford, and if you wanted to hang out with a friend you had to call their land line more than an hour in advance.

Man, have times changed. I do a lot of volunteer work with junior high students and they have proven to me that I am in fact old. While I did not get my own cell phone until I was 13 (and I had to share that brick with my sister), most of these kids had their own smart phones when they were in first or second grade–the word “smart phone” wasn’t even a thing when I was that age! At the age when I was running lemonade stands and making home movies, they were going to “parties” and drinking soy lattes at the mall. These kids grew up on the Internet and text messaging and HDTV and 3-D movies. They care about brand names and celebrities and gadets that I have never heard of and, by the time I did my research, the next best thing would already be on their minds.

What ever happened to bikes and rollerblades? What about Monopoly and The Game of Life? Can kids these days even comprehend the horror of having your VCR “eat” your favorite Disney musical? Will the new generation ever know the frustration of never knowing where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Will they ever know the satisfaction of successfully reconfiguring the html code on their Xangas? And what about overalls? Now I don’t mean the ridiculous phonies that they are selling in high-fashion retailers. I’m talking good, old-fashioned, way-too-baggy, androgenous overalls. You just don’t see laize faire fashion in the middle-school market these days.

I look back at my two decades of living and compare my childhood with the ones in process today and they look drastically different. Yes, we all go through the same awkward stages and the same adolescent milstones–we will all learn to ride a bike and drive a car and go to school dances and get our feelings hurt by childish gossip–but the kids these days are truly something else.

Maybe that’s the tiny old lady living inside me talking or maybe it’s the musings of someone reaching a pre-quarterlife crisis, but I feel like I have next to nothing in common with these young whippersnappers. I guess I’ll just have to wait and watch this “new” generation develop and maybe they’ll surprise me. Until then, if you need me, I’ll be at the local Luby’s playing with my Tamagochi and spilling jello down my overalls.

Social Fasting

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The first project for my Social Media Marketing course was to go without any form of social media for 24 hours. I groaned when I read the assignment, thinking about everything I’d miss out on by not checking my Facebook or Twitter. Thoughout the day we were supposed to keep a log  describing if and when we were faced with the temptation to use social media and how we reacted. Our professor said that it was okay if we cheated, but we had to log why we did and what we felt. Of course, being the professor-pleaser that I am, I vowed to go cold-turkey – that lasted about 3 mintues.

I began at 10 am by sending out warnings to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers that I was going on a 24-hour hiatus – as if the world would stop without me. Immediately, I found the need to access facebook on my iPhone to locate the phone number of a person I was supposed to be meeting to work on a project. It blew my mind that it took only that long to realize how much I depended on social media for day-to-day activities. Then, I felt compelled to tweet about my inability to locate my partner’s contact info and the insecurity I felt waiting outside the cafeteria alone (I overcame that desire). During the day, I faced similar situations: the desire to tweet about the fact I was fasting, the guilt of leaving my words with friends opponents hanging, the frustration of hardly being to check my phone without an alert from Mashable popping up.

I’m ashamed to say that the first half of my day was consumed with thoughts of the social interactions I was missing by giving up social media. At one point my sister even shoved her phone in my face saying “did you see this tweet?” and I had to remind her that no, I had not.

Then something happened. I got bored. Normally when I get bored I’ll surf the internet and check my various social media outlets. But that day I decided to hunker down and finish reading that book I’d been meaning to. And that’s when I discovered the value of this fast – I wasn’t distracted. There wasn’t the pesky thought in the back of my brain urging me to constantly connect or the need to check to see if anyone had reached out to me, waiting for messages and notifications and distant interactions, because, well, I couldn’t. It was just me and my book. I was alone. I finally realized the simply truth about the impact of social media on my generation: we are never alone.

Although I have gone back to using all my social media outlets, I have definitely gained an understanding of how social media alone has and will continue to change our world. It makes a small world even smaller and yet distances us from eachother in a way that no other medium has. We can connect with anyone, anywhere, at anytime, all from the safety of seclusion. We may be surrounded by connections, but we have disconnected ourselves from what really matters.

Social media shouldn’t constitute the entirety of our social experiences. It should act as a tool to engage, not the only means of doing so.