“Get off your phone and watch TV with us. I think you’re an internet addict.” – Some Adult, probably, 2016
“Turn off those video games and go outside. You’re going to rot your brain with that stuff.” – Some Adult, probably, 2001
“Quit watching stupid cartoons and go play. You’re going to fill up your mind with trash.” – Some Adult, probably, 1984
“Put down that book and go get your chores done! I don’t care if it’s for school!” – Some Adult, probably, 1966
“Standing around and talking isn’t getting that hole dug any faster.” – Some Adult, probably, 1639
Shaming people for using the technology they have in ways that are different than authority figures think it should be used has been a human trait since we as a species developed consciousness and the ability to be judgmental pricks. Even as far back as 20 BC, folks were bemoaning how much better the old days were and how children are worse than they have ever been.
“Worse than our grandparents’ generation, our/parents’ then produced us, even worse,/and soon to bear still more sinful children.” – Horace “Odes – Book III”
As we moved through the various technological revolutions, there has always been the cautious and self-righteous fringe who takes it upon themselves to let everyone know just how shitty of a job they did raising entitled, spoiled children who will never know the simple joys of whatever it is they’re wistful for. Back in 1790, it was the simpler days when there was…less fiction?
“The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?” – Reverend Enos Hitchcock “Memoirs of the Bloomfield Family”
In the 1850’s, technology was moving much too quickly for the likes of one writer of the time, who stated in “The National Era” magazine:
“Household luxuries, school-room steam-press systems, and, above all, the mad spirit of the times, have not come to us without a loss more than proportionate…[a young man] rushes headlong, with an impetuosity which strikes fire from the sharp flints under his tread…Occasionally, one of this class…amasses an estate, but at the expense of his peace, and often of his health. The lunatic asylum or the premature grave too frequently winds up his career…We expect each succeeding generation will grow “beautifully less.” – Thrace Talmon “Degeneracy of Stature“
We’ve heard it from every generation about the one coming up next. As we grow in to adulthood, we watch our friends turn from people excited for the future, to people who are living in the future and are all of the sudden nostalgic for a past that probably never existed in the first place. Those who don’t fall prey to excessive sentimentalism are more likely to accept change for much longer in to their lives. Culture and technology moves, but nostalgia stays the same. Eventually, everything old becomes new again, with better features and different colors, just in time for someone to complain about it.
Of course, internet addiction is a real thing that some people deal with. However, it seems as though for every person who actually has the issue, there are 4 older people are passive-aggressively posting a minion meme on social media about how disrespectful kids these days are.
Being surrounded at all times with information can make people feel bombarded. Between the 24 hour news cycle, endless advertising, the ability to constantly be in communication with others, its become a functional truth that in order to live a healthy existence, its important to find the balance of how our time is utilized. It’s not beneficial to the body or mind to spend all day every day cooped up in a room staring at a computer screen. It’s also not healthy to ignore the rest of the world by refusing to engage in anything technological at all if it is easily available. Culture and current events are an important group touchstone, and isolating from it is just as bad as immersing in it to the point where its interfering with normal life stuff. Being online is like anything else – addiction isn’t caused by drugs, there is something causing the behavior to take the substance and get that relief. Addiction is likely not a brain disease, but is about a dysfunctional drive to meet a basic biological need for connection. People don’t self medicate with food because chocolate is just too good to resist, they do it because meeting that “need” helps them cope with something else. It’s the same for whatever you name. Drugs, sex, entertainment, exercise, food, alcohol, hobbies, work, sleep…all things that generally make humans happy, or at least distract them from the inside of their heads for a while. Great if used in moderation, not so much when taken to extremes. The issue isn’t that we have access to these things, it’s that some scapegoat them as the problem in their lives, instead of taking a look inward and doing the hard work of learning to be a more balanced, empathetic person in order to connect with others more easily.
Information overload is stressful, but it doesn’t seem like humans are incapable of handling it from an evolutionary sense. In fact, we crave sharing with each other – we just need to understand how much. There is a price to engaging with the world outside, and there is an equal one for refusing to engage at all. Other people don’t get to decide that for us what that cost is or if it will be paid.