September 28, 2015

Millennial memories of adolescence: Digital isolation

An earlier post looked at how Millennials get nostalgic for not having a life during childhood. Almost all their memories revolve around mass media and the virtual rather than the real world -- TV, movies, video games, and so on. Very little music, clothing, fads, or toys -- especially ones that required you to be playing outside.

Public environments for social interaction with peers, like the mall, the bowling alley, or the video game arcade from the '80s, are completely absent. They grew up when cocooning and helicopter parenting had really gotten going, so what else are they going to remember? Poor kids.

These themes continue into their memories about their adolescent years. Now that we're getting farther and farther away from the 2000s, it's possible for them to reflect on what it was like. What do they come up with?

Here is a recent BuzzFeed video with over a million views and over 3,000 comments, about "Memories from the early 2000s". Nearly every item is about technological devices and the internet.

You can find more focused lists on clothing from the 2000s, music of the 2000s, and so on, but when you leave their memories open-ended, all they ever recall is which form of technology they were using to socially isolate themselves at the time -- was it Instant Messenger, multi-tap texting, MySpace, etc.?

Even the two items about music are not about the music itself -- which bands they were into, or which genres were popular -- but about the technology used to store it (burning mp3s onto a disc, and long download times for filesharing).

Not only is there no mention of activities that you do in-person with other people, there is no awareness of the broader outside world -- 9/11, American flags everywhere, Islamic terrorists, etc.

We can dismiss blaming all this stuff on the internet, since Gen X was using the internet back then too -- more so, given that we were older and had our own computers -- yet our memories of the early 2000s don't all come back to the digital devices du jour.

We remember how terrible Nickelback & Co. all sounded, not how long it took to download their mp3s. We remember whale tails (thongs + low-rise jeans), not which reality TV stars made it their signature look. And of course we remember 9/11 and its aftermath.

Millennials' social isolation began long before they were on the internet and using cell phones anyway. Recall the earlier post about their childhoods. Back in the '90s, it was Nickelodeon TV shows, Disney movies on VHS, and N64 or PlayStation video games. But still using mass media to distract and anesthetize their brains while being cooped up inside the house all day, every day.

Another 10 to 15 years down the line, Millennials will have the same deprived memories about their digital-only lifestyles during young(ish) adulthood -- the buzz you felt from getting likes on Facebook status updates, those annoying ads before the video loaded on YouTube, posting pictures of your lunch to Instagram, "damn autocorrect!" etc.

If 9/11 barely registers in their memories of the 2000s, I'm sure that the first black President, gay marriage, etc., will evaporate from their memories as well. It's all just been a series of distractions for a socially isolated generation in search of one novelty after another to alleviate their perpetual boredom.

It's truly amazing -- an entire generation with no memory of real life. Even more bizarrely, they have no memories of "the good old days" because  technology keeps improving, and that's all that counts to them. Digital heroin keeps getting more potent, cheaper to score, and more efficiently transmitted.

Parents beware: this is the outcome of digitally bubble-wrapping your children out of overblown paranoia about what'll happen if they have a social life.


  1. When I saw words like digital and memories, I first thought that this post was referring to most post '88/'89 people having little to no film photos featuring themselves and their peers/siblings. Being that lives have been so dull over the last couple decades, maybe it's just as well that they were captured by cruddy/lifeless digital cameras.

    When video games went in the crapper around 1997, I was mostly beyond being imprinted by the "kid" culture of the time. Other than a few fast paced/unpretentious games like Tony Hawk I don't have much nostalgia for late 90's games. The style was becoming boring "realism" which just isn't as engaging as the more stylized games made before the mid 90's. Plus a lot of 90's culture manages to be both annoying and bland at the same time. 70's/80's cultural icons have held up better since the culture of those eras was more imaginative and earnest.

    I owned an N64 but never got into the cocooner friendly RPGs. I never even owned Mario 64. At that time I actually played as much SNES as the N64. I had some retro game compilations (some of these games were games I played at Bowling alleys/arcades/convenience stores etc.) so those were fun. Stuff like Joust, Paperboy and Marble Madness, which I remember playing on the NES too.

    Most of my nostalgia is based on games like the NES Ninja Turtles games, Double Dragon, Contra, Streets of Rage, Shinobi 3 (a cool Genesis game), Street Fighter, Doom, and so on.

    I definitely remember playing a lot of these games over and over again in spite of immense difficulty. I don't think I ever finished most games back then. I might've made it to the last level of Shinobi 3 like 3-4 times. Which I couldn't beat.

  2. This reminds me of a scene from Millennial nerd bestseller Ready Player One, where the protagonist of the book escapes the dystopian future-corporation that is hunting him and holes up in an apartment building with an elaborate VR deck to lay low. The author spends pages and pages of loving detail describing all the effort the kid goes into (including installing a sort of airlock on his door so deliverymen won't have to come inside) to achieve complete and total isolation from the real world so he can focus all his attention on video games. It becomes painfully obvious that this is a personal fantasy of the author's that he is using the book as a chance to indulge.

    I've posted it in a bunch of comments here before, but it always bears repeating: it is hugely creepy to be walking down the street in an area with a lot of Millennials (a college campus, say) and suddenly realize that literally 90% of the people around you are either staring at a smartphone or have earbuds in as they walk. Virtually no one is fully unplugged even for a short 10-minute walk home after class. Truly dystopian.

  3. "Plus a lot of 90's culture manages to be both annoying and bland at the same time. 70's/80's cultural icons have held up better since the culture of those eras was more imaginative and earnest."

    Millennials aren't so weird due to the low quality of the pop culture they grew up on (though that certainly didn't help things), but because pop culture was all that their brains were exposed to growing up.

    Some misguided Gen X parents are continuing the helicopter parent trend of sheltering their kids from the outside world, peers, friends, etc. Their kids will only be exposed to pop culture -- but the *good* pop culture from back in the '80s. That will prevent their child from becoming just another one of those poor "kids these days"!

    Sadly, no. If a kid was socially isolated in the '80s, despite having superior pop culture to choose from, he still wound up awkward and retarded. Like the author of Ready Player One, who NZT mentioned.

    Whereas if a kid in the '80s had the typical social life and outdoor experiences that everyone else did, but had to take in crappy '90s and 2000s pop culture during those few hours of pop culture at home, he would've turned out like pretty much every other normal child of the '80s.

    The most important change is getting kids out of the house, relating with their peers unsupervised, and so on, at a normal age progression. Not obsessing over how kiddie or kickass their pop culture stream is.

  4. "Virtually no one is fully unplugged even for a short 10-minute walk home after class"

    Crime should start going up at some point in the next 5-10 years. We'll trade one problem for another (safe but taciturn mood for a dangerous but exuberant one). But if it means people will wake up and stop fellating Steve Jobs, well, maybe it's a fair trade.

    The Beat-em-up video game seemed to peak from '88-'92, which basically coincides with the peak in dangerous urban areas, albeit not really the peak of wildness among all demographics (which was the early 80's, child murders apparently peaked in 1982). It seems to that by the late 80's there was a sort of come to Jesus moment about how things were unravelling, though truth be told a willingness to admit the problem was proof that some people were settling down by 1989. Certainly most Boomers had by then. The BTK Killer didn't kill anyone after '91 I believe. He just chose to stop.

    Went crime began noticeably climbing and the cities were deserted seemingly overnight by the early 70's, there's a noticeable increase in how aware, how tough, and how unpretentious people became. Reveling in dorkiness and naivety about human nature doesn't really sell when there's a palpable sense of how fragile and fleeting life is. Which people don't really grasp unless there's a lot of mischief and violence. If we think that our lives might be cut short, we make greater efforts to connect with the people around us. Who wants to spend their last day on Earth enmeshed in banal technology?

    For the Millennials born around 1988 and thereafter, they have virtually no memories (with the possible exception of a few who grew up in awful 90's ghettos) of any sense that darkness could intrude at any moment whether you were prepared or not. Or whether you deserved it or not. That's part of the reason people born in the early-mid 80's spent some time in the late 80's/90's wanting to hang out a lot. And that's the last cohort to have any kind of desire to be an ass kicker, rather than a doofus who embraces the artificial and develops a hair trigger ability to be easily offended. Just look at those Beat-em-up games, after all.

  5. Having said that, it's worth reflecting on how spectacularly the late Boomer parents' strategy of isolating their kids has blown up in their faces.

    The basic idea was to isolate them from peers because some peers will be bad influences. But if the kids are cooped up all day, and can't interact with others unsupervised on the few occasions that they are allowed to leave home, then they will be bored beyond belief and be bugging their parents until both of them go crazy. Solution: park them in front of a stream of pop culture, distracting enough to lull the kids into forgetting about the real world and being OK with the virtual world.

    Of course, provided that the pop culture stream doesn't show nudity or cursing -- bad influence!

    But over that time (the '90s through today), pop culture has become so multiculti, liberal, tolerance-supremacist, non-judgmental, and preaching the gospel of "the most important goal is feeling good about yourself".

    Some hyper-liberal parents may not have minded that, even appreciated it, but most of the moderate and conservative parents were too busy ignoring their children to notice what messages and values were being unloaded from the Trojan Horse of kids' entertainment. Hey, it didn't have nudity and cursing -- case closed, it must be wholesome!

    There's no way that a child's real-life experiences outside the home would have been so biased toward the liberal dipshit side. They would've met moderate and conservative folks, people who wouldn't put up with their brattiness, who would've judged them and shunned them for acting like an anti-social twerp, and who wouldn't place the child's self-esteem above getting along and growing up.

    That's the childhood that Gen X grew up with, and they turned out normal, despite seeing the occasional pair of titties in a comedy movie that their friend's older brother rented from the video store.

  6. "The most important change is getting kids out of the house, relating with their peers unsupervised, and so on, at a normal age progression. Not obsessing over how kiddie or kickass their pop culture stream is."

    I guess my point was that an affinity for dorky 90's kid stuff is a sign to me of a classic Millennial. I never bought Power Ranger figures or read Harry Potter; to me these were things for people born in the late 80's who I never hung out with or related to. I (and my peers born from about 1982-1986) spent plenty of time building forts, riding bikes around sans helmets, trick or treating with no babysitter around the time my older brother was 8-9 and I was a year and half younger, etc. My parents let me walk the streets at night by the time I was about 7.

    I get what you mean about parent sheltering. I'm no more on board with "my kid's gonna have my childhood but without the spontaneity, the down time, or the screwing around" than you are. But there's no sense in trying to convince Gen X parents that they need to lighten up or let the kids have their own distinct world by finding their way. Gen X parents are so frazzled by the idea that their kid might run into a bad situation that they're refusing to loosen their grip.This is what leads to the next Silent Generation; sheltering parents more or less keep kids stifled from developing a sense of gravitas or even any real footing in their hearts and souls, leading to them having a life long sense of uncertainty and self doubt about their place in the world.

    Only time will tell if most Millennials are classic Silents, or if the 2000+ cohort better fits the bill. Could we have 1 half assed hero generation followed by a true Silent generation? I'm not really sure if Strauss & Howe's cycles will happen in the natural fashion when you consider modern medicine, modern tech., the disastrously high levels of diversity (of though, behavior, and race).

    Also, did those guys ever comment on how an extended period of cocooning and decadence/inequality would really do a number on a generation(s)? Even in the national low point of the civil war (which negated a possibly heroic generation), at least America was mostly Christian and white. How heroic can a generation be when it is beset by much diversity and a blatantly corrupt culture?

  7. "But there's no sense in trying to convince Gen X parents that they need to lighten up or let the kids have their own distinct world by finding their way."

    I've been on my brother's case, albeit in a joking tone, since we noticed him helicopter parenting early on. (Not just me, but my other brother and my mother, too.)

    He's gotten better about letting his now 7 year-old son do things that might entail a fall, scraped knee, etc. He tries to find friends for him, but he lives in a worthless college town with no children, plus the other kids' parents are all unabated helicopter parents. It takes two sets of normal parents for the kids to hang out unsupervised.

    Late X-ers seem pretty open to the idea. He's born in '82, either late X-er or early Millennial depending on who you ask. Millennials will be even more receptive, since they know how awkward they are, how much their parents sheltered them, and can connect the dots if someone brings it up.

  8. A harrowing report from a 90s fest, more musically oriented.

    I gave up on video games in college because they started to seem like work, but I was into computer RPGs like Fallout & Deus Ex. I had a bunch of abandonware from the olden days, but never finished most of it. I also attempted to create a couple of my own in AGS or Inform 7, but never even really got to the "Hello World" stage of functionality. I can't say my dabbling in Android development more recently has gone further.

    This Friday I was talking the L back home after meeting family on the northside, and noticed that all three of us in one section had headphones on, so I decided to poll them on what they were listening to. White guy was listening to Oasis, black girl (who correctly warned me that I wouldn't be familiar) was listening to something whose name sounded like "Private Dixon", and I was listening to an Ambrose Bierce short story from LibriVox.

  9. I doubt that 90sfest, as gay as the name sounds, was all that harrowing. He clearly meant to go in hating it, wanting his grumpiness to set him apart and not get into it. Classic killjoy.

    Not that 90sfest would be better than 80sfest, of course, but it still sounds like a basically good time. As much as I dislike most '90s music, there were still a good handful of good and good-enough songs to enjoy in a laid-back party / festival atmosphere.

    When they've played throwback rap / R&B songs at dance clubs, I've non-ironically cut a little rug to "The Sign," "Here Comes the Hotstepper," "Whoomp (There It Is)", "Regulate" (which samples an '80s groove), and so on. And even though the other people there might have just been born when those songs were popular, they can still resonate with basically danceable tunes (if they've bothered showing up to a dance club). Plus it alleviates their anxiety about hearing a somewhat unfamiliar song -- seeing someone else getting down to it means there's a leader to follow, and they don't feel so awkward anymore.

    I think Smash Mouth sucks, too, but if it were a party atmosphere, why isolate yourself so much by stewing in how much suckage there is on stage? Just go with it for 20 minutes or whatever, and have fun with the other people there. You can be a purist when you're listening to music in your car.

  10. Re: agnostic's post. Well, BuzzFeed is a media website, so I'm not totally surprised its a lot about the internet. Burning CDs was also kind of about making mixtapes as well. I can't really imagine them going "Haha, remember that crazy Islamic terrorism" on the list either really, tonally.

    This stuff on how the young have spent their time would be more useful grounded in actual data from the likes American Time Use Survey, tickets sold to concerts, GSS questions on TV, internet use, how often people see friends, family, etc. Otherwise, you may be talking more about changes in salience to memory and BuzzFeed audience than actual behaviour, which yes, I think you could say is sad, but is a different thing.

    If real though, some of the trends in some media and tech being very salient in memory might be to do with these being what Millennial generation actually tend to spend a lot of time talking about and bonding over, when they're together. Fan "community" amplifies how much they remember it, rather than its because literally that's all they spend their time doing, alone. I think there's definitely a sort of cosplay / media commentary / techie way of socialising where that is what you talk about that probably did not exist in the same way in the past when there was much less media and much less convenience of access to it and much less tech. Mostly media more than tech - gives me a good feel for what younger Millennials / older post-Ms talk about to one another. There's also some progress in tech and supposedly in media, while I feel like in fashion people strive for timeless looks a lot of the time, or perhaps hipster randomness often.

  11. "I think there's definitely a sort of cosplay / media commentary / techie way of socialising where that is what you talk about that probably did not exist in the same way in the past when there was much less media and much less convenience of access to it and much less tech."

    If anything this reinforces the point of the OP. To the extent kids have lives, a lot of it involves bonding over shared pop-culture geek-outs. Some amount of that is probably fine, but when you're passively consuming a Marvel movie or Harry Potter book you are by definition not socializing. It's the ability to comfortably socialize with other kids in real life without a ton of digital distractions that's lacking today. The fact that kids use these socializing opportunities to babble about their media addictions just shows what a deep hole they're in.

    The other thing I just remembered thinking about this topic is the sudden wave of popularity of video game streaming on Youtube and Twitch. This is now a huge fraction of what goes on on these sites (the most-subscribed channel on Youtube, with 50 million followers, is a video game streamer). As someone on MPC mentioned, kids today are so isolated and lonely they will watch a stream of someone else playing a video game rather than playing it themselves, just to feel like they're sharing the experience. It's pretty funny but also sad.

  12. "Crime should start going up at some point in the next 5-10 years. We'll trade one problem for another (safe but taciturn mood for a dangerous but exuberant one). But if it means people will wake up and stop fellating Steve Jobs, well, maybe it's a fair trade."

    Its not that dangerous, though, for most people. I don't think we're trading one problem for another. Cocooning is not some kind of viable alternative - it represents deep sickness and dysfunction.

  13. I don't know how accurate Strauss and Howe's theory is. :If you tie to something like economic growth, then it makes sense that, say, generations who come of age during a depression or recession will be more self-sacrificing. Or rising equality and inequality, which operates in 50-year cycles.

    Problem is, Strauss and Howe explicitly tie their theory to parenting styles. The "heroic" generation is partially sheltered, with the "adaptive" generation(Silents) being totally sheltered. is it really heroic for a bunch of stunted drones to do whatever their more independent and mature elders tell them to? That part of the theory comes across like a weird Boomer power play - "you're the heroic generation, now do what we tell you to do!"

  14. they did originally tie the theory to the crime rate, but then backtracked because crime fell in the 90s, which supposedly would signify the beginning of the crisis period a la the Great Depression and WWII.

  15. "To the extent kids have lives, a lot of it involves bonding over shared pop-culture geek-outs."

    Good point. And in fairness, this was already under way with teenagers during the second half of the '90s.

    When The Simpsons first came out, we might ask our friends the next day if we'd seen last night's episode and recite our favorite gag. But later into the '90s, I remember some of us (or one or two fanatics) making the re-enactment of Simpsons jokes the sole focus of "conversation" for the better part of five full minutes.

    Same with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson's Creek, and a bunch of other gay shows that I never got into but kept on hearing my peers geek out about during class.

    This wasn't possible in the '80s because serial dramas were non-existent -- people had enough drama to discuss from the real world (outgoing, rising-crime) that they didn't want an overdose coming from TV shows. There were only sit-coms on to lighten the mood.

    Still, as bad as things were getting during the '90s, it was only the beginning, and that was not how we were raised before high school age. With Millennials, geeking out over pop culture is the only form of social-cultural interaction they've ever experienced.

  16. "As someone on MPC mentioned, kids today are so isolated and lonely they will watch a stream of someone else playing a video game rather than playing it themselves, just to feel like they're sharing the experience."

    I have another post on the theme of digital isolation, also touching on that trend. Basically, that the function of social media has evolved, since the beginning, away from person-to-person interaction (albeit online) and toward making the user the star of their own personal 24/7 reality show, as well as the spectator of the reality shows of others they may or may not know in real life.

    YouTube is an interesting partial exception because very few people have a YT channel, put out videos, and draw any kind of audience. Whereas everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Basically, the "clips" of your own personal reality show can be easily browsed through by the audience on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, whereas there's no list of sentences or gallery of thumbnails on YT to get the gist of what's included in the video. You have to actually click the video and watch a decent amount to get what the content is -- and having to do that for most videos from one person, let alone everyone in your social network, would be information overload.

  17. Even with person-to-person interaction, though, Millennials prefer a digital cocoon -- sending texts and snapchats rather than talking or in-person interactions. It's striking how immensely popular texting and snapchatting is, whereas Skype and FaceTime are marginal / disappearing among Millennials. Lifelike voices and facial expressions make them feel too awkward, since they grew up without much social stimulation.

  18. "Even with person-to-person interaction, though, Millennials prefer a digital cocoon -- sending texts and snapchats rather than talking or in-person interactions."

    Not sure if you saw the big Vanity Fair article about Tinder from a few weeks ago, but this was something that surprised me about it. Even among freewheeling NYC social butterfly types, apparently they lean heavily on texting and phone apps to screen other people before they're willing to take the terrifying risk of meeting a potential hookup face-to-face (and then they have to get shitfaced to get their courage up). For a long time only gays were major users of hookup apps; attempts at making them for straights were hamstrung by the fact that cute girls generally had no use for them, and thus no one else was interested. But Tinder finally broke through, and it seems to be because girls finally got to the point where they prefer tightly-controlled, digitally-mediated attention whoring to actually having real flesh-and-blood guys hit on them to their faces. And sure enough, it's de rigeur now that when out at bars everyone keeps their phone face-up in front of them at all times, when they're not actually burying their face in it. Having one's iPacifier out of sight for even a moment is completely intolerable.

  19. I just read that Vanity Fair article. Here's an interesting moment of self-awareness:

    '[A group of Millennial college senior girls] say they think their own anxiety about intimacy comes from having “grown up on social media,” so “we don’t know how to talk to each other face-to-face.” “You form your first impression based off Facebook rather than forming a connection with someone, so you’re, like, forming your connection with their profile,” says Stephanie, smiling grimly at the absurdity of it.'

    The only connection they don't make is with helicopter parenting -- why did their entire generation grow up on social media instead of face-to-face interactions? If their parents had let them have normal social lives as children and adolescents, these retarded apps would never have appealed to them.

    Helicopter parents didn't stop to think about how social isolation would make their kids awkward and difficult regarding trust and intimacy, let alone what their dating-and-mating lives would become as a result of not having experience trusting others and being emotionally intimate with them.

    Part of me wants to give helicopter parents a break, like they were just doing the best they could even if it was misguided. But total social isolation, and then having mass media pop culture be the sole entity that raises your children, has got to be one of the most radical forms of experimental social engineering in human history. And they had no excuse not to know that beforehand -- how many previous generations were raised that way? Zero.

    Basic precautionary principles should have led them to not go there, but they did it anyway -- all of them. And then having the hubris to gloat about what great parents they were, as though their grand-scale engineering knew better than God, Mother Nature, tradition, or whatever other reasonable standard.

    They're also refusing to admit how badly they screwed up -- no longer debatable now that we see the outcome in their Millennial children -- let alone apologize, tell others not to let their own experiment go any further, beware breaking so radically with Mother Nature, and so on.

  20. "I can't really imagine them going "Haha, remember that crazy Islamic terrorism" on the list either really, tonally."

    They could have shown a neutral picture of American flags along a highway overpass, or a joking picture of George W. Bush making a monkey face. Instead: nothing about the outside world. Reagan would've appeared in a Gen X video about "remembering the '80s," Bill Clinton and perhaps Monica too for the '90s.

  21. "Bill Clinton and perhaps Monica too for the '90s."

    Back to the focus on Millennials' limited memories, I certainly remember stuff like:
    - Jeffrey Dahmer getting busted
    - The Oklahoma City bombing
    - the O.J. trial (we listened to the verdict in class when I was in 4th or 5th grade if you can believe it, can you imagine that happening now?)
    - Don't ask/Don't tell, along with some other "culture war" type stuff.
    - Bill Clinton's impeachment

    Ya know, if we accept that '61-'64 people don't quite fit neatly with one generation (too cynical and apolitical to be Boomers, too self absorbed and cocky to be Gen X-ers) maybe we ought to treat '82-85 people in a similar way. Didn't you once link to a teen employment chart which showed that those born in the 2nd half of the 80's were far less likely to have jobs at a young age than those born in the 1st half?

    Teen smoking rate:

    Interestingly, the 2001 rate is nearly right in between the high school kids of 1999 (arguable Gen X-ers) and 2003 (those born from '85-early -'89). Yep, '82-'85 is a bridge from generation to another.

    It seems like the tweeners don't necessarily relate fully to one generation. Myself included. I'm not going to cosplay as a core Gen X-er (how could I, especially the imminent nuclear war X-ers born in the 70's who seem resentful of later births co-opting their stance and culture. But I also remember being a kid in the late 80's/early 90's and a teen in the late 90's when it was still ok to goof off aimlessly with your buddies (when people didn't want to be nerds staring at screens all day) and make fun of pompous or annoying people before 9/11 and the growing influence of Millennials made it impossible to get away with it.

  22. "Same with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson's Creek, and a bunch of other gay shows that I never got into but kept on hearing my peers geek out about during class."

    Never got into the WB stuff, which I thought was for girls. I remember watching the X-Files a lot and also Saved by the Bell and maybe Boy Meets World from time to time. I think the earlier 90's stuff made a greater impression on me since it was more rooted in the unpretentious/affable 80's. I have no idea what the hell Dawson's Creek or Buffy was about but I do remember the cast and characters of 90210 though I didn't watch it too often.

    Even the X-Files, regardless of the paranoid mythology or monster episodes, had characters you could root for since they seemed like real people. Not like the fey teen fantasy of Dawson's Creek or the oh so hip and witty characters on late 90's shows like Buffy. "Bonding" with a character is something that happened to me with shows that started in the late 70's-early 90's but since then the approach to characterization (and the acting) just doesn't resonate. You can't relate to the rapid fire wit, the ultra glossy look to every one, and the way that characters all to often are either snarky or aloof.

    J.K. Muir's horror books talk about "situationally appropriate behavior" in drama. Even relatively cookie cutter/bland 70's/80's TV fare had people who you could grasp and relate to. The late 90's/early 2000's might've been the nadir of annoying characters, though I think in some other ways (especially the humorless high brow TV dramas) we've gone even further down hill the last 5 or so years.

    I'm not so sure it's the serial element per se as much what the tone of the show's characters are. Virtually all 70's and 80's TV shows had personable characters even if they had few lighter moments (I don't think 21 Jump Street or the Streets of San Francisco made people roar with laughter). Into the early 90's (like with In the Heat of the Night or X-Files) the characters seemed authentic, rather than inappropriately dour, snarky, or hammy fags.

  23. "Yep, '82-'85 is a bridge from generation to another."

    I like your way of thinking! 1984 birth here. I definitely can't claim to be a part of Generation X, but to call myself a Millenial also seems so wrong.

  24. Semi-related topic: A sad irony I have noticed among undergraduate students at a community college where I work is that, although they are often glued to one type of digital device or other, they are also functionally (or, at least, borderline) computer-illiterate. They don't know how to check their spam folders or use basic password resets. They insist on being walked through simple digital tasks — such as downloading a document, remembering the download location, navigating to that location in a file explorer, and opening the document with another program — as you would your grandparents.

    Re: agnostic 8:20 pm, I was in a college town recently and stopped in a park to rest while exercising. One of the decorative pieces of vegetation planted in this area was a holly bush. A young child walked up to it, reached his hand out to touch the leaves, and just as he began to do so, his father swooped in from behind and grabbed his arm, urging extreme caution around such a hazardous bush.

  25. It's striking how the "digital natives" can't even use Google or Wikipedia. They have all that information at their fingertips, yet are the most ignorant generation in modern history. They think they can just figure out how something must be. "I'd guess that..." is a popular one, for something that can be solved in under 10 seconds of Googling. Mind-blowing.

  26. A big reason the internet was cool in the 90's/early 2000's was that it was obvious that a lot of content was basically labor of love type stuff that Gen X-ers did, however thankless it often was. Not to get too pretentious, but a generation that was given little respect or attention seemed to believe that you had to put work into your ideas and develop a good grasp of something before you released it for public consumption. And most early web creators were humble and grateful if anyone listened to them. It wasn't about screaming for attention.

    90's culture left a lot to be desired, but at least it was to a large extent Gen X culture. So it had some spirit, some irreverence, some rowdiness, a sense of adventure etc.

    As time went on, more and more Millennials and early Boomers infiltrated the web, so things got more boring. "You can't say that!", yawn.

  27. If you think Millenials are maladjusted, just wait til the kids born after the financial crisis reach young adulthood. That's gonna be a strange and troubled generation.

  28. I'm a later GenXer born in 1975. And my closest friend since childhood was born in 1978. But my brothers are both older than me. I see the differences. I identify more with the first wave of Millennials, what some refer to as part of the MTV generation. It's true that MTV made a major impact for me in high school, something older GenXers didn't experience at that age. Even as my childhood was in the '80s, I came into young adulthood during the '90s.

    My older brothers have become helicopter parents and have isolated their children. I find it a strange turn of events, as my oldest brother in particular always hated what he thought of as my parents being too protective. In comparison, the childhood of my brothers and I was extremely free and permissive. I suspect what happened is that many older GenXers remember all the fear, anxiety, and troubles of an under-parented childhood during an era of violence and crime, not to mention Cold War paranoia and the moral panics of supposedly Satanic child sacrifices.

    It was a demented time for American society and it warped us GenXers. Despite violent crime rates have dropped lower than they've been in generation (largely because of reduction of lead pollution), the imagination of GenXers is still stuck in that earlier time of danger and they fear for their children. It's not rational.

    As for present moral panics about technology, that is something that goes in cycles. I remember the far greater fear-mongering about video games destroying Western civilization. And the paranoia about mass media during the early Cold War turned into straight-up collective madness. Going further back, the first novels written in the late 1700s rocked the word at the time not all that different than now, as kids back then walked around with their faces in books as they were mesmerized by it, and they were copying the behavior of characters including enacting suicide.

    It's good to keep historical perspective, especially at a time of mass historical amnesia.

  29. early gen z/late millennial, i have had a friend exclaim that i had "no childhood" because my halfway decent late boomer parents kind of discouraged excess of Asian anime cartoon pop culture, and i never had a personal taste for it anyway - i actually laughed at him many times after he mocked my "abnormal" childhood in which other townhouse kids and i played in our yards, relatively unsupervised, riding bikes around a small town...still watched a lot of TV but for whatever reason our parents were too conservative to "allow" as much YuGiOh and random stuff like that. I was growing up in the early 2000s. So this seems even more rare, i have a hard time relating to some of my generation who spout off streams of pop-culture references in what becomes a head-spinning form of banter. Just by luck and coincendence, I had at least somewhat of a less pop-culture-dominated childhood than many unfortunate peers, and have aggravated or alienated many of these small-souled as a result.


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