Published reports indicate that youngsters are now literally connected to electronic devices, cellular units, iPods, video machines, for as many hours as they cumulatively are anywhere else. What they have lost, this cyber-generation, is a relationship to the dance between time and creativity.
Life has given me a second generation of teenagers; my own two daughters are still vividly young adults engaged in the arts and media, connected to but not co-dependent upon the Web, the viral videos, the book-machines that don’t have pages and glow in the airplane aisles. They enjoy repartee, are fond of language, and commiserate about good plays and fascinating movies. They just escaped the ban on thinking.
What are we going to do for TWELVE minutes?
My children by marriage are smart, engaging, and do cherish their relationships with family and friends. They are also up against a world of impossibly invasive information, hyper-intense scientific axioms, global cynicism, and a core social trend towards absolute sameness.
My son recently had a near-thrombosis when he and his electro-buddy had to spend twelve un- programmed minutes together without access to wired data and image units.
I had collected them from junior high “Phys Ed” (read: Surfing; this is Southern California) at the end of another challenging, sun washed day. I suspected they were hungry. “Would you like some pizza, guys?” I inquired. “Oh yeah sure thanks,” they both murmured, not even glancing up from their texting/ listening/downloading twitchiness.
We ordered a large cheese pie at the local eatery (any discussion of combinations, variations, or the sudden improvised distress of my suggested side salad would require thinking, or the removal of earphones and wires). How long will it take? I inquired—being the one person who was not connected to anything but my wallet.
“Oh, twelve minutes.”
I reported this to the boys, who obliged my living voice.
“TWELVE MINUTES?! What are we going to do for twelve minutes?” I swallowed a palpitation with the realization that these good young men were utterly serious. And afraid.
“Well, we could sit outside in the fabulous California sunshine and, well, talk.” My son and his friend are polite, well-hearted, and actually very sweet lads but this still was not going to be a possibility. They were really concerned about the twelve-minute programming gap and conversation was not an option.
Fortunately, my boy had access to some old videos of The Simpsons in his iPhone and the two did pass the dreadful void before the pizza arrived watching and listening in calm relief.
We are an advanced civilization, no?
PREVIEW my coming book on MLK and the ’60s!