As much as it defeats the desires of curmudgeons to believe that kids
these days are somehow losing their way, the truth is that IQ scores
have been rising steadily over the generations, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect. Science writer Steven Johnson wrote an entire book, Everything Bad Is Good For You,
where he effectively argues that the very “overstimulation” that people
like Farndale resent is probably why people keep getting smarter.
Having spent the past two days deeply immersed in the newest version of
Super Mario Brothers, I can safely agree with Johnson that video games
actually worked my brain pretty hard, with no noticeable decline in my
literacy skills. After all, a good video game is a rapid fire series
of problem-solving situations. Shouldn’t we want kids to spend their
leisure time working on that? (Scientist friend on hand wants it to be
known that video games are used as therapy for ADHD kids, to retrain
their brains to concentrate. Also that it works a lot better than
boring kids to death in public schools.)
Not that I think any of this reality will cause the curmudgeons of the
world to lay off complaining about kids and their video games.Once
you give yourself permission to resent kids for having access to
pleasures that baffle you, you’re probably not going to be in the mood
to applaud them for also being better at problem-solving and having
greater comfort with rapidly changing technology.
Emphasis mine, because it is resentment, and the reason it makes me crazy is that it’s unproductive. Look, man, I’m sorry I don’t have to walk uphill both ways to school, but that … what … I mean, what does that even DO? If I apologize for not knowing how hard you had it, can we move on to cure cancer and end poverty and shit now? We have things to DO here.
I pull this shit, too, I’m not immune, I wear 1940s dresses and write about local history and this is mycurrent favorite movie, but let’s not pretend it’s a dodge. For example, my telling you all about how I used to go home from my job at the paper with line tape in my hair and six bandages on my fingers from Xacto knife cuts and covered in wax from doing paste-up may be funny to us both, but it doesn’t actually help you get the paper out your own self. Living in the world we live in, what are we to do? Memory lane is awesome, I live there part of the time. But memory lane starts being a destructive escape the moment you start acting like it’s a year-round hangout and using it as a way to avoid worrying that somebody is passing you by.
Now, granted, not everyone thrives with the Wii or the Interwebs jacked directly back into their heads, but this is exactly the point. This one-size-fits-all attitude that the future is always scary and entertainment is always suspect and pop culture is always destructive and TV rots your brain and typing on a typewriter is just more virtuous because it’s REAL ™ and whatnot is just as dumb as saying the iPhone is automatically better than anything ever and Facebook is the new Christmas andyou old, motherfucker and we should all stop speaking to one another in anything but binary and burn all our books because they take up space in the library. People do not all react the same way to everything.
We all have things that shaped us and we all have values but this turns into an argument not about those values but about brand loyalties. The Internet does not prevent us from working hard or having meaningful interaction with others, not by its own self. Video games by the nature of their existence do not make someone an anti-social asshole, they just help people who are already anti-social assholes reinforce those tendencies; if it wasn’t video games it’d be something else. Didn’t we have this dumbassed argument after Columbine, already? I don’t even play video games, because I’m lazy as hell and it takes work to build up any skill at those things, but I get so nuts when people try to blame the existence of morons on anything but those morons.
And it doesn’t really say anything all that nice about the speaker, either, saying that your generation was awesome just because you didn’t have all this stuff. Better to argue, really, that it was your superior work ethic and your general adherence to Good Things in The World and your innate power of Great that kept you from sucking, and not a lack of access to Playstation.