Its happened the last two times we've went to see my father.
My father, my personal hero, has never been one to hold his opinion (Luckily I don't suffer from this, just ask all my friends). But while he'll speak his mind, he'll also let have your say as well. He'll listen. He'll learn from you. Just as we all should. But sometimes his opinions are as old as he is.
Here's an example. Its normal for most families, in the evening times, for everyone to settle down and relax. Usually this involves watching a television show together, doing homework, etc. Parents (both Mom & Dad) would sit around the television with the children and watch a program together. This was educational, and a great family bonding moment. Each evening kids would jostle for a seat while Dad selected a show that was suitable for the whole family. This is primarily what most of our parents, and grandparents, lives were like.
Well in today's world, most of us have our own personal entertainment devices. Smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. So the days of everyone sitting around the same television locked into it, are pretty much past (unfortunately). IF...IF we all are in the same room we're usually off into our own worlds of social media, texting, playing a game. You get the picture, right?
Without fail, my father will look at everyone looking at their personal device and state "HAHA Look at all of you, just staring at those little stupid things. You're addicted to them. You look so dumb, just like a bunch of zombies, staring at a screen". Again, knowing the consequences of challenging my father's opinion..in his house..I decided to think about what he said. The truth of it.
Disclaimer here. My father is legally blind so he's unable to use any smart device. He just can't see any of it. He has to sit about 2ft away from a 50" television and look at it via his peripheral vision.
He's not wrong. Not one bit. Go to the mall, walk down your street, hell go to a movie even. You'll see people zoned into their phone like its a breathing tube. I'm guilty of it as well. We've become habituated to grabbing for our phone any moment that's longer than 13.7 seconds of boredom. But, his opinion is also full of hypocrisy. So carefully I countered his comment. I said "Dad, thats bullshit. How is us staring at our phone screens any different than you staring at a television screen? You grew up with everyone stuck around the tv staring at it like zombies, thats not different than what you're laughing us about". I then excused myself and ran outside (
screaming like a girlscout) hoping he was too old to catch me.
My father, the smart man he is, stopped and thought about what I said. He laughed, then smiled, and then straight faced said "You're right. You're absolutely right. Now go get me another beer and shut up."
"....go get me another beer and shut up."
But not being satisfied with the simplicity of this logic, I looked it up. Not in any great detail, but generically. How have we as a species progressed in our consumption of media. I took my observations in life today and looked up comparisons from the past. Surprisingly, its not much different really.
I ride the train to work and back, ever day. You have three(3) types of riders. First is the sleeper. These people are either sleeping or just riding with their eyes closed. Normally they'll have earbuds in listening to something. Second is the reader. These people are reading real books..made of paper. Whats paper you ask? I hate you already. Third is the device user. Me and about 90% of everyone. Reading, texting, watching, emailing, etc. These 3 categories make up about 99.8% of the riders. So I figured that's a lot of people consuming media. How does that compare to the days of yore?
Just a very very quick look at some pictures and you'll see that in the environment I talk about, nothing much has really changed. We consume information. Its just the delivery method that's changed.
We, as a culture, have been consumers of mass media for as long as we've been a country. Longer probably. Look at it through the steps of our progress. Pony Express. Telegraph. Notes in bottles. Morse code. Gossip over the fence. Smoke signals. World news on televisions. How many hundreds of other ways? Today's world, its personal devices with thousands of apps.
We've kind of always been addicted to it. We all love a good story about the train wreck. Who hasn't slowed down and looked a little too long at the firetruck lights on the side of the road? Guilty as charged. Along for the ride? You can either zone out while looking as off ramps flash past, or pull out your nifty little device and the world is at your fingers.
But now that I know this, what can I do about it? Should I do anything about it? Of course. Who hasn't heard about "disconnecting" from the world for a bit? I'm a firm believer that we need to occasionally, and its healthy for us to look back at the world without the safety net of an internet fed I.V. connected to our eyeballs.
I've recently started only looking at my social media in the evenings (ok, I've gotten better at it). I honestly have found that forgoing all that virtual drama on facebook has made me more relaxed. Its all fake anyway. Everyone acts tough behind a keyboard. Literally you can see people only reading messages just so they can reply, not because they are willing to 'hear' other persons. Its easy to be a dick. Just look at an average facebook group page. Sheesh, so many children it seems.
But this has me going back to hearing my father. His media is fed to him via the television. He doesn't have a reply button. His unfollow or
block button is the channel up or channel down on his remote control. And you know he'll never get rolled. Click the picture, I dare you
If he doesnt like something he see's (barely) he'll just grumble and change the channel. Not like many of us today. We'll bitch about what we don't like in a reply message, not caring who likes it or not. That's their problem, not mine. Or is it? What community am I facilitating with my cruel and ill mannered response? Is this how we want our children to be? To just spout off against everything we disagree with? Is this what our Grandmothers would approve of? If you say yes, you're full of shit and I don't believe your parents wanted you to grow up to be an douche canoe. Our parents and grandparents wanted us to stand up for what's right. But they wanted us to be intelligent and educated in our opinion FIRST.
I know that I'm opinionated. I refuse to quiet my opinion just because someone might not like it. I feel if they're butt hurt about what I say, I'll get them a hello kitty band-aid and call their mommy to come pick them up. But I also know that you have your opinion too. And if I want to be wise and to see things beyond my horizon, I have to listen. Even if I disagree with you, you'll still teach me something. That makes me a better person.
I'm still playing on my phone in front of the television, and on the train. I read on it, I watch netflix, I listen to podcasts. Daily. But I'm trying to be more responsible and use it to educate myself with programming podcasts, help me create with recording ideas and taking pictures for my blog or social media, and not just be one of the drooling masses staring zombie like into the screen. Music? Yes, when I'm walking or mowing the lawn.
Sam (yes, the same one) normally doesn't have much to say (ok that's a lie, we normally can't get him to shut up) actually said something very proverbial the other month. He said "We always say 'if we could go back in time and do things differently'. But we have the tools to do it now, so where's the problem? The only thing holding us back is ourselves". Yeah, I know right? Shocked the piss out of me to.
So as I see it now, my father's way of watching television doesn't give you much of a choice in the media. Its one channel or the next. Completely one sided. But it doesn't have the 'led around by the nose' like internet does. Television will hold you for at least 30 minutes. A pomodoro has you for 25 minutes. The internet has shortened our attention spans to that of 144 characters.
So as long as I am responsible, can push through that nagging need to swipe right every 14 seconds, and be smart about my consumption methods and types, I'm leaps and bounds above what the newspapers of today can teach me.