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The Kids Are All Right

February 21, 2016

Am I out of touch

Being in your mid-thirties is a strange time. You’ve likely been out on your own long enough to no longer be one of the “kids”, but unless you’re a real hard-hearted son of a bitch, you’ve probably not reached the “get off of my lawn” phase yet, either. It’s a transition period for most people. and of course I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how and why so many people make that leap from “we are not old me. We are not worried about petty morals” to “kids these days”.

On the most recent episode of Reconcilable Differences, John and Merlin touched on this. Merlin told a story of Stephen Fry discovering Oscar Wilde as a kid living in the country, without the access to the constant stimulation that we take for granted today. Each scrap of writing he could obtain by or about Oscar Wilde  was precious and and not just consumed but digested. Fry says unequivocally that he would not be the same person he is today had he grown up with Internet.

He doesn’t say this as a value judgment. It’s just a fact. In a lot of ways, we are the sum of our influences. It’s true that society could never create another you, exactly as you are. A kid growing up today would be exposed to different influences in different amounts. And I think that this is what scares older folks so much. It’s not just that young people today are raised in a different world and have different interests. It’s that this questions the essentialness of their nature. If we allow society to move away from the interests and values I hold dear, what does that say about me? 

Of course, this is nothing new. In fact, it’s kind of depressing how predictable it is. Every stale joke about “hipsters” or Snapchat or whatever else else older folks don’t understand has been made innumerable times over the course of history. Only the nouns have changed.

Does this mean that all new trends are benign, kids are gonna do what they do, so lets move everyone over 40 to Florida so the rest of us can move forward already? I wouldn’t go that far. But I would ask that as you age, dear reader, have a little faith in our youth. Kids today may need a little nudge here and there, but eventually they’ll figure it out.

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