Have you ever heard your kid refer to the figures in Monopoly as “icons” instead of “tokens”?
Have you ever been meandering through a thrift store to hear your child exclaim: “Mom, look at the size of that CD!” while they are pointing at a vintage LP collection?
Have you ever been ice skating and heard one of your favorite songs while growing up, only to have your enjoyment interrupted by some teenager saying, “Hey, an oldie goldie song!”?
Have you ever said, “When I was a kid….”?
If you answered any or all of them with a resounding “Yes”, then you have already experienced the generation gap.
Ah, the good ol’ days! Why is it, that when we look back on when we grew up, nostalgia wipes out all the negativity we felt at the time? Maybe it is because as teenagers, we were raving lunatics with out-of-control hormones, and everything was dramatic, big, and life-changing. As we got older we became more emotionally stable and have more perspective and logic.
More often than I would like to admit, I find myself saying to my kids: “Well, when I was your age….” Fill in the blank with any number of assertions of idyllic and misremembered childhood days. For example, before we were given a Wii U, we had one computer and a laptop in the house. The laptop was always off limits, and the computer time was meted out according to age and availability. One of my children complained one day as to the state of the affairs, as far as electronics go. I went full fledged, “When I was a kid, we played outside!”
“Mom, but it’s hailing!”
“Never stopped us! It builds character.”
Okay, maybe it did stop us, but we played board games or hung out. We did have an Atari, which at the time was cutting edge gaming (I totally just dated myself!). But we didn’t live by it. Yes, we enjoyed a good round of Yars’ Revenge or Asteroids, but mostly we had face to face time with our friends. These days a face to face encounter is a 10 second Snapchat that isn’t even saved for later reference. This can be an issue in our area, where the internet is flakey at best. I’ve had conversations with my kids at college that went something like this:
“What r u talking bout?”
“A few minutes ago.”
How’s that for a meaningful conversation?
Of course, the internet wasn’t even a commodity back in the good ol’ days, either. We had T.V.’s where we had to get up and change the channel, phones attached the wall, and a Betamax tape player. When I was a teenager my parents gave me a stereo that had the record player, two cassette players, and an 8-track! (You get points if you know what a Betamax player was, and bonus points if you know what an 8-track player was).
Technology isn’t the only change over the last generation. There are philosophies of social conduct and linguistic interpretation that have altered over the last few decades. One such example was brought to my attention recently when my 8 year old was reading his Bible. He came to me and posed the following question:
“Mom, why are there random smiley faces all over in my Bible?”
I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about so I asked him to show me. He did.
Mark 6:12 “And King Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad :) ….”
Very funny. So, instead of the current generation seeing the colon and end parenthesis as the earmark of the ending of a literary aside, they now see smiley faces at random intervals. I guess it could be worse. When I was growing up the best known symbol was the one featured on the bumper sticker that said, “Honk if you want to see my finger”.
A strange shift in philosophy was brought to my attention when I was chatting with one of my college-aged daughters at dinner. I had just finished one of those “when I was your age” statements regarding face to face conversation. “Not only did we talk face to face, but we looked each other in the eye out of respect and to show we were listening!” My daughter told me that in her Social Studies class they did a little experiment. She had to stare unblinkingly into someone’s eyes while they were conversing with her. My husband and I looked at each other both wondering what the big deal was, and why that would be an experiment? Our daughter explained and it was obvious that the intent of the whole project flew right over our speckled gray heads; that not looking away periodically made others uncomfortable because it was a breach of privacy.
A what? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. According to what I just heard, young people today consider it a breach of privacy if you don’t break eye contact and look the other way every so often when talking to them. Shifty eyes have replaced what my generation learned as polite social manners. Personally, if someone doesn’t look me in the eye when I’m talking to them, I find that offensive, or even suspicious; I wonder if I’m about to be hit by a truck, or a thief running away from the police after stealing a poor old lady’s purse.
I have to wonder what is next? Will it be socially unacceptable to actually talk face to face at some point? Actually, in some ways, it already is. Witness to that would be all the social hook-ups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat- just to name a few. Back in the good ol’ days we spoke in person to each other so that we could rightfully read voice inflection and body language. I have to wonder how many statements are misinterpreted because two of the key elements we use to communicate to each other are largely absent from our culture.
Yes, there is a generation gap. There always has been no matter which generation you are in. However, I think that if both sides of the gap strive towards better understanding, it can be bridged in a way that benefits all.