A couple of weeks ago I was riding the ferry and saw this cartoon. At first, I laughed my ass off, because of it’s ironic view of life today versus twenty years ago; but once it settled in, I got uncomfortable with the “hidden” message it seems to have. In fact, I believe this cartoon should be viewed as a Public Service Announcement for our youth on how NOT to create lifelong happiness. Take a look, and then see if you agree.
I have a huge fear for today’s youth, and it secretly shows up in this cartoon: While it appears to be about a statement of how technology had changed over the years, and highlights how things we grew up with are outdated and obsolete, I believe it has an ostensible message. I think it’s telling us that today’s youth are growing up in a society where the basic building blocks of a successful, happy life are being discarded for the hollow, instant gratification of today’s technology. Even worse, if we imagine these things going on for another twenty years, the cost to our youth socially, intellectually (not to mention financially) and from an overall character standpoint are huge.
I’m terrified that such mundane habits of today’s society won’t set our youth up with the skills and character traits needed for a happy and productive tomorrow. No, seriously, hear me out: How can anyone find lifelong happiness with no social skills, no education and no moral compass? Put all these together (plus the reliance on all these technologies 24/7) and what kind of people will they produce in 20 years time? My guess is mind-numbing zombies who can’t think for themselves, do for themselves or have the basic skills or abilities to distinguish the difference between right and wrong! Who could be happy living that way? Seriously, a world like that scares the bejesus out of me!
I Get It: Times Have Changed!
I get it: Phone booths are obsolete because almost everyone carries a phone, and that makes sense. But here’s the thing: Rather than calling and actually speaking to people, most folks are using these phones to text random things that – in the old days – would never have been considered important enough to locate a phone booth to make the call! Can you imagine someone seeking out a phone booth, then rummaging throughout their pockets to find a quarter, all so they could call somebody to tell them they’ll be 5 minutes late for dinner? Of course not!
But that’s what happens a million times a day; not to mention much of the time it’s done behind the wheel of an automobile driving down the road at 60 km per hour. In general, I’d say that all this non-verbal communication is not a recipe for developing social skills, let alone happiness; heck, I even wrote a post about it once. No, actually talking to people, face to face if possible, feels wonderful; and is a sure path to having good, healthy and happy relationships in our lives.
The same goes for mail; who the heck hand writes letters anymore? And again, I get it; with email everything is so fast and quick, so why bother putting pen to paper? But here’s the thing – if you want to make someone feel extra special, let them know you truly care, nothing will do it like a handwritten note. The message somebody gets from such a hand written card or note is simply this: “You matter to me”. I met a woman once who wrote a handwritten card to 30 people in 30 days, and told me that this act not only made each and everyone of them feel loved and important, but it made her feel all these things too, which in turn makes her very happy and blessed to have good friends in her life. E-cards and email just can’d accomplish this.
Jodi Ann Bickley has devoted her whole life to writing handwritten notes to strangers, and it’s changed her whole world, and in a very, very good way.
The bottom line is that writing emails or sending e-cards as a way of communicating emotions is impersonal and pedestrian; on the other hand, hand-written letters and cards aren’t. These make people smile, and the act of writing them creates life-long habits for success. And while it’s true, handwriting notes and cards means you can’t use “spell check”, it does mean that perhaps – just perhaps – you’ll look up a few words in a dictionary to make sure you spell them right… and that’s the point. By taking this route, you’ll learn something new, and get a wee bit of an education in the meantime! Knowing how to use proper English makes us more confident as people, and reminds us that indeed, there was life before computers! The lost art of hand-writing is one we should be putting back into our kids lives, for all the obvious benefits it brings.
And speaking of books, apparently reading them (including e-books) is becoming a bit of a lost art too, one that’s not being passed onto our youth as much as it should be. According to statistics, it seems that very few people actually read books anymore; apparently all their time is spent online reading Facebook and Reddit, or streaming videos – either that, or on video games, iPhones, iPads, etc. And with all these goodies on the internet competing for their valuable spare time, what youth has time for boring old books anyway? Out of curiosity, today I asked a parent if their 12 year old child reads books, and they (obviously embarrassed at their feeble attempt to lie about it) suggested that their since their child reads so much in school, (grade 7) they don’t have time to do it at home. Okay…?
I’m confident in one thing: Kids who don’t learn to read (and by learn, I mean comprehend, look up words they don’t know, understand what “prose” is, etc.) WILL grow up to become adults who don’t know all these same things; and that’s not a path to getting the finer things out of life – things that will ultimately add to their happiness. Books are the very best way anyone can educate themselves about a specific topic, but unless our kids learn the importance of this (and put it into practice on a daily basis) chances are good they will grow up intellectually underdeveloped… And who could be happy being like that? I definitely subscribe to this formula: Lots of books = Lots of Direction = Choice = Happiness.
And finally, in the cartoon there’s the rockstar who is homeless because the kids download his music (and movies, etc.) for free. I’ve always struggled with downloading as it denies development of one of the most important traits a person can have; the trait of INTEGRITY. I believe that if we work, we should expect to be paid, right? So why should we be okay taking fruits of somebody else’s work. without paying them for their hard work and effort? I don’t care if Taylor Swift is rich beyond belief, and you need the money more than her: She got that way through hard work, long hours and by developing her enormous talent.
Illegal downloading is stealing; plain and simple; and letting our kids think it’s okay is just plain wrong, and is setting them up for failure. Personally, I couldn’t betray myself and sell my integrity for 10 bucks. I’m happier knowing that I’m contributing to the people who do the work and have earned the money; and that way I can easily expect the same back when it’s my goods and services in question. Besides, who can be TRULY happy when they spend time wondering how they can be cheating others? I don’t think they can.
And since that covers all the points in the cartoon, let me as you a question: As parents, if we allow our youth to continue on with these bad habits that society deems “okay” and “the norm” (texting people versus talking to them, emailing instead of hand writing personal correspondence, video games, iPads and Facebook instead of real time reading actual books, and cutting corners and illegally downloading other people’s works for free) are we really setting them up for a life of happiness? Are we helping them create a life where they feel empowered to be able to do the things they want to do, and live a life on their own terms? A life where they feel like they contribute something tangible and real to society? A world where they will eventually want to raise their own children? I have to say: It’s doubtful.
In a ways, this cartoon serves as a warning to us as parents. It reminds us of the many ways that our youth are being put in danger, and if we aren’t careful and take some control over how our kids live today, tomorrow might not be that happy or bright for them. Because without social skills, proper English skills, a sense of decency and manners, and above all, integrity, how can anyone live a life of happiness and joy? Personally, I don’t believe they can. But I also don’t think it’s too late to change things.
You may agree with me; or maybe, you might thing I’m out to lunch, and it will be alright in the end if nothing changes. I guess I just don’t want to wait twenty years to find out I was wrong… That’s a chance I’m not willing to take, for Tristan’s sake.