Middle Age in the Digital Age
This Saturday, I turn forty. Other than having a massive book sale (that you should absolutely check out), I am not making a huge fuss about it. I'm not big into parties and I am certainly not the type to panic and act like the world is coming to an end because I am another year older.
If anything, I feel a bit like a fraud. Forty is old, right? Adult at the very least. I mean, come on, I have gray hair, doesn't that prove I am a grown up? It might. I'm sure many twenty-somethings out there might look at me and think, "Uh, yeah, you old, grandma!"
But do I feel old? Do I feel like a grown up? No. Not really. I am relatively responsible and I have recently realized that going out and partying is not an option when it takes several days to recover, but overall, I don't feel as if I have a whole lot in common with where my parents were at my age. Granted, that may have more to do with the fact that they had four kids, one who was in college. I'm surprised they survived with their sanity mostly intact. Sorry mom and dad!
I have to wonder how much of this is perspective and how much is outside influence? Would I be more inclined to act my age if I didn't have access to all of the latest memes and millennial news at my fingertips? Am I any less responsible because I allow my bills to be paid automatically instead of sending off a check each month? Maybe, maybe not.
See, there's something about being old that bugs me. It's all the complaining. Now, don't get me wrong, I do my fair share of complaining. Old people are supposed to complain about young people. That's our job. But I try to keep my complaints from straying into the realm of hypocritical.
The biggest complaint that I see is that young people today spent all of their time glued to their phones. No, this is not something I overheard at my Saturday afternoon bridge club. This was not voiced by Ms. Maisey Lou at the gardening society social. This was not even told to me by a nosey neighbor at the local grocery store. Primarily, I see this complaint in the form of image macros on social media websites like TWITTER and FACEBOOK. You know, those places millennials are supposedly addicted to. Seems counterintuitive to me to use the very outlets you are trying to shame to complain about someone else's addiction. It's just as dumb as people using the internet to complain about nerds and computer geeks.
Admit it, old people, the only reason you went out, did things face to face, or looked things up in the encyclopedia was because the internet did not exist. How convenient that we can forget how addicted we were to talking on the phone. Not about important stuff, just tying up the family phone line to gab for hours with our friend who lived right down the way. All we were doing was texting with our mouths. How was our late night cable TV binge any different than a Netflix binge other than you now have more options? You didn't go out to crowded bars and clubs every weekend because you loved the noise, smells, and unsavory characters you inevitably met. You went out because Tinder didn't exist yet and dating services were the expensive luxuries of those rich enough to admit their desperation. Arcades were way cooler than console gaming? Okay, that's just misplaced nostalgia for a couple of pixels housed in a pretty wooden cabinet and oh, by the way, no one was socializing there either. Not with the high score on Centipede at stake.
Of course, being a writer, I see the eBook hate quite a bit. The other day, an image macro was making its way around lamenting all the things one can do with a paper book that can't be done with an eBook. Barring the fact that pressing flowers in a book was actually an old timey life hack and not the best thing for your book to begin with, I do not see a paper book shortage here. But I digress. My actual complaint here was that someone made the comment: "It's scary, but we can't stop technology from happening."
No, what is scary is that anyone would want to stop technology. As I said, I am about to turn forty. While I say that isn't old, let's take a look at what life would be like if the powers that be were able to stop technology at the time of my birth. Let's look at how awesome life would be...
Well, first of all, how many of us would even be alive right now? Tamper resistant packaging came about as a result of cyanide poisoning in the eighties. Had we just rolled with it, what else could have happened? Let's not forget that AIDS was a death sentence until very recent medical advances came about. Everyone would still have to experience chicken pox, opening them up to the risk of shingles in adulthood. Got pain? Congrats, you now also have a morphine addiction. But that's okay, because it might counteract your addiction to meth amphetamines prescribed by your friendly doctor because weight loss is all about public image and not heart health.
Seatbelts would be optional and airbags nonexistent, so more car crashes would be fatal. Sun screen would be unheard of and we would all be lighting our Luckys or cigarette of our choice while we grocery shopped, sat at our desks at work, or nursed our children.
You think we have environmental issues now? What do you think the air would be like if we still used leaded gasoline and hairspray chock full of CFCs? Remember the smog around LA? Imagine a world full of it.
Not everything would kill us, but many things we take for granted, like HBO, would not exist. Want to watch Game of Thrones in a world where premium cable and digital media don't exist? Have fun sitting in the sticky seats of the local adult theater with the rest of the degenerates, you pervert! Don't like a song on the radio? Sorry, you can't 'skip' it and good luck finding another station in all that static. Want to listen to music while you run? Too bad, the Walkman hasn't been invented.
And last, but certainly not least, have fun cutting the scratchy garment labels out of your underwear. That's right, printed labels have only been a thing for about fifteen years.
We have come a long way in forty years. I have too. Do I occasionally long for simpler times? Sure. Do I love that we can replicate simpler times with modern conveniences? Abso-freaking-lutely! So what is my point? Simply this: don't knock modern technology because the alternative isn't as cheerful as you think, and don't knock old people for being crabby and obsolete. You're going to need us when the robots take over and cut off the world's power supply. And when the sentient robot army cuts off the world's power supply, don't act all surprised when I become a minion/henchman for the overlords. Mamma needs her WiFi. ;)