All right-thinking American citizens should be gratified at the significant advances in science and medicine, and the dedicated and steady march of societal progress in civil rights, women’s, and gay rights in the recent decades. This writing is not intended, to any degree, as an expression of nostalgia for the (imperfect) past. Instead, it is an attempt to explain the perceived awkward posture of those, born in the decades of the 30’s to the 50’s, (“antediluvians”) experientially hampered by their lack of currency in electronics, and in their less than au courant compliance with many contemporarily changed social folkways, understood by the younger generations to be appropriate and universally acceptable.
It is not our view that younger generations, on principle, reject the social expectations and assumptions of the elder, or conversely, that the elder generations are so fixated in their traditional assumptions, that they are blind to modern circumstances and evolving social change. This mini-essay is solely purposed with the raising of consciousness, where needed, that individuals of disparate age, share identical wants and moral and ethical principles, yet may, respectively, express them in styles which are nuanced reflections of their own generation.
Most novice parents necessarily reference their remembered childhood experience as a basic compass or primer to follow or modify, in their subsequent roles as parents. Noticeably, the phenomenon of additional children will evince empirical adjustments to such earlier established preconceptions. In any event, the implicit responsibility to keep the child healthy, safe, and regularly compliant with parental and societal behavioral expectations, is a daunting challenge, variously met by parents in their own, nuanced way. At some point in the child’s developmental maturity, parental restrictions, once resented, typically become understandable, accepted, and later in life, replicated in an analogous fashion. Predictably, parental fears and aspirations for their offspring, to the extent that they are factually based, are generally, analogous, if not identical. As appears, the responses of their offspring are, in various styles, essentially similar; perhaps at first, somewhat resentful in their untried early experience, but later, seeing a commonality of the restriction imposed by other parents, are more resigned to parental acquiescence.
This familial “round robin” of analogous behavioral and attitudinal evolution, as between parents and children of disparate generations, seems repetitively eternal. In bright contrast, the relationship between the generations, becomes progressively nuanced and less predictable, in the context of the use and reliance upon computers ( by the younger generations); most notably, upon computerized telephones (the latter electronically gifted with a reliable facility for recording, photography, encyclopedic inquiry, computational capability, as well as, media access, directional advice, meteorological reporting, sleep alarm and calendar reminders).
It is not only the existence per se, nor even the ubiquitous use and accepted reliance upon these electric marvels, (the progeny of a seemingly computationally gifted, proto-hippie, mutational, sub-species in the Darwinian evolution of homo sapiens, classified as “geeks”); it is the universal, revolutionary upheaval in interactive communication, affecting vocabulary, messaging, written correspondence, and quality of conversation that has evolved (or deteriorated, depending upon generational perception).
As declared in earlier essays, we have been confronted with a veritable, sea- change to cold, impersonal, data-like, abbreviated characters, appearing on a small, lighted, handheld screen, from the pleasant, reassuring sound of a familiar voice with known characteristic nuance; as well as the confident receipt and exchange of intended meaning, expressed in chosen, familiar vocabulary, plus the absence of the natural warmth of personal contact. The younger generation has, seemingly, intimidated the older, into a compliant preference for “faster, and more efficient” modes of communication, in lieu of such natural and personal experience of familiarized, recognizable, and expressive interaction. We see such unaesthetic, impersonal, and less expressive decline in interpersonal interaction as a tragic and predictably, irreversible, loss.
Computer-telephone “texting,” the reference to typed messages, utilizing code-like cryptic symbols in lieu of vocabulary, seems to also replace the special efficacy of selected, personalized speech expressed meaningfully and aesthetically in the iconic language of letter writing. Speed of exchange has, deplorably, prevailed, totally, over accuracy, aesthetics, and the welcome warmth of personal expression.
The revolutionary change, (or repression) of natural and expressive interaction has given life to a new techno- mechanical vocabulary and contextual reappraisal. Words like “texting,” “sending,” ”uploading” and ”downloading,” ”rebooting,” “friending,” ”tagging,” are among a virtual plethora of relatively new and specialized language, used in contemporary computer babble. Other ordinary words have, somehow, morphed into the electronic patois, like the word, “remote.” The word, pirated from the American-English lexicon, meaning distant or conceptually unrelated, is universally employed to designate a hand-held small appliance, used to turn on and off or change the setting, on a television set or music player. It appears that the act of standing up to select a program has been universal accepted to qualify, as requisite in difficulty, to become one of the Homeric “Labors of Hercules”.
We find that apart from technical changes, antediluvians, occasionally find themselves challenged with the need for behavioral adjustment to their long-term traditional mind-set. By reason of the metamorphosis to computer phone technology, we have been obliged to wrestle with the following illustrative adjustment to our communication assumptions. On many occasions, we have thoughtlessly refrained from making a telephone call for the assumed reason that the recipient at such hour, was “not home” but was, “working,” or ”out to lunch,” and the like, forgetting that in contrast with the home (“land”) phone, that the recipient is eternally reachable, by reason of his cell phone. This traditional and outdated concern about current telephone availability is one that we find is chronic and dies hard. However, we now generally, do remind ourselves on second thought, of the party’s ever-constant accessibility by means of the modern-day cell phone.
Before setting out for an unfamiliar destination, we often, routinely, request directions and prudently write them down for ready reference, forgetting about the availability of the modern GPS. We are amazed that Roku type movie channel will resume at the point where we last tuned out. Antediluvians may remember that during the era of newspaper comic strips, the celebrated detective,” Dick Tracy” had a “miraculous” telephone connection with his police precinct, through his wristwatch; today we can talk and see family members, or have face to face teleconnections with others, by laptop computer.
While all these new electronic advances do make changes, in many cases (but not all) for the better, it in fairness should be recalled, where relevant, that folks of previous generations emphatically need liberal catching up time; to be able, above all, to adjust to, what they perceive as bizarre, impersonal and data- like communication, and to many other novel electronic capabilities.
If there is one electronic “advance” to which we find accommodation difficult, it is the ever on duty, echo -robotic deejay, responding, mechanically to the name (sound ?) “Alexa.” Does the “remote” and easily accessible radio or television dial afford to the resting patron such arduous labor as empathically calls for such needed compassionate relief? Now the proverbial couch potato, when awake, is not only freed from the heavy labor of pressing his remote button or bravely standing up and walking, perhaps, as much as three full steps, to sleepily access his desired diversion; presently, if he can stop feeding chips into his face for a full five seconds, he can utter the magically responsive sound. Things just keep on getting better and better!
In the foreseeable future, we can be witness to even greater labor-saving devices, such as when computer science has progressed to the point, for example, where blinking the left eye twice, will turn on the coffee maker and doing the same with the right, will result in perfect crispy, buttered (rye) toast.
* Statements on child-rearing and parenting are based solely on observed experience; we claim no expertise or educational training on the subject.