So, there was this huge deal with ADD/ADHD as I was growing up (let’s say early 90s until 2000), and I knew a few kids who were super hyperactive, and they took medication that calmed them down somewhat. Later in life, they seemed to be fine, but nonetheless, there was much controversy about too many kids misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD when they just genuinely required discipline. Fast-forward fifteen years to 2013…
In an attempt to get in touch with the generation of kids ten to fifteen years younger than me, I became an active member of an online humour community. I had already seen these “internet memes” become trend and receive publicity in the media, and even a South Park episode based on it. But why is it so popular and what exactly is popular and why do they do this? Without going into boring details, here’s what I found out about people born roughly between 1995 and 2005:
College Students Have the Right Idea
It would seem those born near 1995 (those entering college or already enrolled) seem to have a good grasp on social issues. They know they are the next generation, and thirst for knowledge and wisdom. They take notice of global socioeconomic and political issues and even start forming opinions other than those imposed on them by their parents and professors. They also have held onto their childhood. These guys grew up playing pokémon and Call of Duty and Halo and are used to phenomenal graphics, and missed the big internet boom of the late 90s, or, rather, were five or six years old when it happened, so they got the very best of the internet and learned how to properly make use of all the technology that the older generations were creating for them.
This makes them an effective work-force and their minds are sharp and they are keen on learning and on gathering information. Perhaps the only downside is the slight generation gap they might be feeling. They spent a lot of time on video games and internet in their youth, and that continues today. I spent my fair share of course, but I didn’t have life-like graphics and online play to keep me glued to the TV/Computer for days at a time. I had the feeling that at first meeting, they seemed very set in their ways and egoistic. They had all the answers because they figured out how to use all that technology by themselves and didn’t need any new ideas from any older generations. But after some intelligent chat, many of them opened up and some friendships even started to form. The younger we get, the more these two opposites start to change places…
High School Students are Preoccupied and Unknowledgeable
My browser tells me that is not a word, but whatever. High school kids are bombarded by the constant media, and have all the latest gadgets that their hard-working parents bought for them. The high school teachers are much older and wiser, but often lack the necessary tools to get that wisdom and knowledge across to them. It would seem that people in this age group are hyper-focused on their immediate surroundings/situation and unless something can appeal to them and keep them entertained for the next fifteen seconds, they’re going to ignore it. I imagine most of them can sit in a 40-minute class period and tweet/check e-mail/facebook / play games on their smart-phones while still seeming to pay attention. They might get engaged in some classroom participation for a few moments, but then trail off to whatever it is they are doing.
However, these bunch of “ADHD” kids are also hyper-productive. They scour the internet for the latest buzz, and most often re-use all the “internet memes” (most often meaning pre-made images where they can enter their own text to give the reader a short chuckle) and post in various places. These memes are often way over-used, and are making fun of something that has recently happened in the media. Miley Cyrus did that “twerking” thing at the VMAs, and all of a sudden the internet was flooded with a bunch of posts making fun of her – in every way imaginable. These ranged from incoherent “hey look, I also made something culturally relevant” to a short chuckle, at best. But they seem to live for the instant gratification of getting a “like” or a comment on something they made. Back in my day (now I sound old) we told jokes to each other in school, and waited until the next day in order to have the opportunity to talk again. Of course good friends did sometimes call each other, but it wasn’t the norm. Today’s high school students have had smart-phones and facebook and twitter since they were 10, so they’ve been utilising/over-using these technologies since then.
However, due to their mass use of all these social technologies, and the fact that these technologies haven’t really changed the last five years, these guys have basically migrated their social lives to completely online. You wouldn’t believe the stories of people going out on dates, super socially awkward, and then the flood of posts in every conceivable online community about every single detail, utilising every available meme and method to make their online presence look as best/funny as possible. A short example:
OMG MY DAD JUST PICKED ME UP FROM MY DATE WITH STEVE AND HE LOL’D SO HARD I THINK HE THINKS HES A GIRL BECAUSE HE HAS TITE JEENS AND GURLY FEATURES. #FML #YOLO #DADS
Yeah, that was pretty terrible. And they really do just write run-on sentences in all-caps and hack up the English language. But it’s SOOOO cool these days to convey how you are feeling by talking fast with no breaks and hash-tagging as “fuck my life” (FML) or make fun of your parents or whatever. Like I said earlier, these guys are mega-ADHD and can’t even stop for one second. And every generation of high-schoolers had their fair share of drama – they are still in their suburban plastic bubble and want to imitate what they see on TV, the movies, and in their parents’ lives.
But all this has made them generally unknowledgeable. They don’t pay attention in class, and don’t have the patience to learn how to properly use the technology. The just type away, hit “send”, and refresh the page until somebody comments or likes their post/content. Before attempting to figure out how to use a new feature of a website they frequent, they either complain about it for a few weeks or write their more knowledgeable friends on how to do it. It’s sad, but that’s what seems to be going on – and it gets worse as they get younger…
Twelve-Year-Olds Have Probably Seen More Porn than I Have…
That’s right. You wouldn’t believe the amount of explicit pornographic material I’ve seen on some of these sites. And the people who post them? They’re twelve to fourteen years old. There’s a huge masturbation culture – “fapping” it’s called (I assume due to the sound it makes). In my day we all masturbated as well, but we sure as hell didn’t talk about it or share links to our favourite porn sites – what if our parents found out? And at some point that was over and we started looking for relationships with real girls, and didn’t have to worry about what would be posted about us after we went on a date. But ten to fourteen-year-olds should be holding hands and kissing, right? Well that’s the funny thing – they would appear to have seen every kind of porn imaginable (I’ll get to that in a moment), and supposedly jerk off all the time, leaving them little time for homework or outdoor activities, let alone any kind of pseudo-sexual advances toward real-life people. This affects both boys and girls.
This might scare you, but there seems to be a huge trend toward really freaky sexual stuff – like boys fantasizing about sex with cartoon ponies rather than busty women. The Japanese hentai and its sub-genres of weird octopus-sex, graphic nubile orgies and much, much more, seem to be commonplace. People laugh about it online, and trade pics, and talk about which one they like to masturbate most often to. I find this somewhat disturbing, but I have hopes that this early sexual peak might produce a less sexually-charged/fixated generation that might even turn out to be super-geniuses by the time they hit twenty. Only time will tell…
What should we conclude? Well, if you’ve ever talked to me or read a post I’ve written, you can gather that it will be some sort of Utopian hippie-bullshit answer. Well, that’s exactly what it is! I’ve already seen examples of teachers embracing this cringe-worthy culture in an attempt to gain their attention. It seems to work somewhat – a lot of kids talk about how cool their teachers are and post pictures of their failed tests where the teacher has used memes like “Y U NO STUDY?” or “I don’t always fail my students, but when I do, I try to give them a second change (see me after class)”. Will this work? Maybe. There has always been a rather large proportion of students who don’t succeed in school and go on to be the major work-force while their more diligent colleagues go on to earn big paychecks in science, engineering and business industries.
What can we do? Talk to them – try to peak their interest. Once in a while, one of the ADHD kids will post something about “wow! have you ever put two mirrors face to face and looked inside? #blewmymind #crazyshit #fuckingscience” and I reply with a long-winded and whimsical basic explanation of how light particles work, and how the human eye works, and at the end pose some deep philosophical questions about “is seeing really beliving?” and so on. You wouldn’t belive the response! A lot of them respond positively, saying things like, “wow, ur smart” or “yeah, my dad said something like that but I didn’t listen. Very interesting….” And I even get into some lengthier conversations about what they think about life thus far, and they ask questions about my life, and I try to encourage them to take time from their online lives and contemplate the universe (in a crafty way, of course).
Each person can find his/her way to accomplish this, but I think it very necessary. These are the ones who will be going to Mars – not us. Of course we’re not all gone, yet, and still need to pursue our individual goals and make the world a better place, but if we can get the younger ones to think about life at that age, then probably a lot of the current problems will start melting: the entertainment industry will be forced to make better, more socially and intellectually engaging films/albums, and every business can stop sinking billions of dollars and hours into social media shit and concentrate on producing great products for a better society.