Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Citizens of 4F, June 10, 2014
The hybrid buses that are now the norm in Minneapolis are configured so the back third of the vehicle is raised above the front, creating the space that houses the huge electric batteries for the bus. When you sit near the front of this rear platform, you can look down majestically on the front 2/3 of the bus and the passengers who sit there.
This morning, at least nine Pin-Twits sitting ahead of me spend the 35-minute bus ride with thumbs in frantic navigation on smart phones, checking their Pinterest, their Twitter, their Facebook feeds and who knows what else. Their free hands usually grip a Starbucks iced coffee, while the opposing thumb goes through frantic calisthenics that amaze me. Social media platforms seem to spring up daily, and I can no longer keep up with them. Our social media person in the marketing department at the office told me recently that Instagram and Google-plus are the coming rage....I have no idea what they are, really, but the combined arsenal of all the social media platforms is certainly enough to occupy this group on the bus this morning.
I try not to be judgmental about this, but of course can't help myself. I'm now at that age where I sense that personal growth is more about emptying myself of irrelevant data and knowledge to make room for something more meaningful, and I can't help but wonder if in 20 years or so these 20- and-30 something adults might be in the same boat. Is the difference between these young adults and old geezers like me a cultural thing, an age thing, or merely a temperamental difference? Approaching 59 years of age, I'm aware that statistically I will likely be present for perhaps 25 or 35 more of these brief Minnesota springs, and I find myself paying very close attention to them. I can't imagine the appeal of burying myself never-ending Facebook feeds on a smart phone while spring passes me by outside.
But I'm aware that young adults are wired a little differently due to being raised with this technology. My daughter electronically multi-tasks like a bandit, and seems to be entirely well-adjusted and happy in life. She knows far more than I did at that age. And who am I to say that being connected to the entire world is somehow less valid than a narrower connection to the immediate environment? Years ago during one of the NASA missions, I realized that I could pull up a live image of the surface of Mars on my phone whenever I wanted. Certainly there is magic in being connected to the entire world whenever you want. Maybe it's just not my temperament to need or want this.
I have fair amount of digital savvy for an old geezer, but there's no way I could pull off what my daughter does, nor would I want to. There are moments when work pressures force me to be connected to email at all hours, and it's not a good thing for me. Clearly I am constructed to be happier when unconnected; I think this is more true for our generation than for this younger crowd, but perhaps even more for me individually.
Just below me, a young woman has a right thumb of Olympic talent. As I secretly glance over her shoulder, she goes through Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and several other media platforms, scrolling so fast that the screen is a blur. Periodically she tries to shut the phone off, but after a few seconds is drawn back to it. At one point, I'm fascinated to see her scroll through at least 50 photos of the British princess. Outside the bus on Bryant Avenue, I see a front garden where a clever gardener has planted Siberian iris among the huge blue leaves of a hosta I recognize as Elegans, thereby creating what appears to be a new species. It is something I might try myself. To me, this is the real thing, but I'm quite sure if I pointed it out to the young woman, she'd see the Princess as a far more relevant thing.
Each to their own, I guess. But I can't help wondering what a 90-year old addicted to social media will look like. Years from now, I suppose our nursing home will be filled with oldsters with huge oversized tablets so that they can study images of a decrepit old Queen of England.