We are inundated by the strong opinions of older generations on how the extent to which technology in engrained in our lives. It’s difficult for those not raised on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat to understand how we consume media to the point where if we are unable to get in touch with people it can feel like there is something physically wrong with us. Millennials get a lot of crap for behaving a way that they do, but part of that frustration might be misplaced. Is it fair to judge a whole generation based on the fact that more is available to for young people than there has ever been before? I challenge older generations to consider how they would have acted had all this been available because I think that would open up a lot of questions about the way people relate to each other. Maybe some of the social problems stem from the fact that human nature hasn’t really changed; it’s just manifesting itself in new ways not seen before. It’s not like until the emergence of the Facebook iPhone app people didn’t feel anxiety, stress, jealousy, loneliness, or the desire to know what their friends or significant others were up to. Now there are just different and more in depth ways of dealing with these emotions.
Xanther falls above average on the frailty/sensitivity scale, but she is still a child raised on technology who is used to being available 24/7 and connected to everyone you want to at any time of day. People that fall into the Millennial age bracket think less of the technologies available today because we have been raised on them. I don’t think I’d be too far off in saying I don’t think Xanther would directly cite social media or texting her friends as a cause for her to become agitated. Changes in media aren’t as big of a deal to us because we’re used to the market for this changing rapidly. We didn’t have meltdowns about the switch from buttons to touchscreens. We transitioned relatively smoothly from T9 word to Autocorrect. And we certainly don’t do this.
What I wanted to do in this post is relate the way young people relate to technology to the way Xanther behaved at the party at Anwar’s office. A claim that gets made pretty frequently is that the ubiquity of social media and technology in our lives is the root of a lot of anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. However I think that people are capable of these feelings without any outside factors. A lot of things can be overwhelming. Xanther is overwhelmed by there being a lot of people and conversations in the office, so she goes to the bathroom to calm down. She becomes overwhelmed by her own thoughts so she turns to social media, Parcel Thoughts, to calm down. She becomes overwhelmed by the images she sees there, so she returns to where the cause of her almost-episode began – the party. My point is that face-to-face human interaction is seen as the pinnacle of communication styles for non-Millennials, but really anything can cause stress or anxiety; it’s all about differences in people and the personal coping style of the individual.
We all have stuff that occupies our minds that we have to deal with in order to be functioning human beings. It is 100% true that some of this can be attributed to things we see online, but I don’t think that the explosion of technology as a driving force in our lives is the sole cause of the anxiety of society as a whole but more of a reconfiguration of already existing feelings and thoughts. Shallow people have always existed; Instagram didn’t create this type of people. Girlfriends and boyfriends have also had those jealous, suspicious feelings about their significant others; the ability to see someone’s best friends on Snapchat didn’t invent these feelings of doubt. I personally can get overwhelmed from anything. I don’t discriminate. And I think to cite social media and technology as the cause of social problems would be small minded. I really appreciate the way Danielewski has integrated people’s interactions with technology as a main theme of the novel because it starts rich discussions about the role technology should play which I think are necessary because I have a feeling the media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
- Odds & ends