Put Down the Camera
Well, the holiday season has come and gone, and hopefully you got everything you wanted for Christmas. I know my son did. In what I have to assume will be his last year believing in Santa Claus (c’mon, at some point, he is going to realize that even the Flash couldn’t deliver presents to every child in the world in a single evening if he was given eight magical reindeer and a large stash of Red Bull), the kid got the massive Millennium Falcon Lego set and a new hockey stick. And this doesn’t even include what he hauled in from his Opa, the doting grandfather with a penchant for buying my kids whatever they want, despite me imploring him not to. So just what did Opa get him this year? Just what he asked for: a GoPro.
You’ve all seen them. Attached to ski helmets and bike handlebars from here to Japan and everywhere in between, these ubiquitous items have become a staple of the millennial generation. That’s because these kids can’t do anything these days without recording it and putting it on social media. If they go skiing in the quiet solitude of powdery trees, they film it. If they go rafting down a precarious stretch of class IV whitewater, they film it. Shoot, if they go for a trip to the mall with their buddies to find a new pair of shades, these obnoxiously narcissistic bunch of millennials find the need to film it. I half expect to find myself scrolling through Facebook only to come across a bathroom video posted by the teenage offspring of one of my college friends that they have cleverly entitled, “Dropping the Kids Off At the Pool”.
And of course, then they need to go post it on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or whatever other social media site they subscribe to these days that I absolutely do not give a damn about. Not to sound like an old curmudgeon waving his fist from the confines of his front porch (which I most certainly will), but in my generation, the only thing we filmed for our own later viewing pleasure was intimate relations with a partner we secretly knew we would dump just a few short weeks down the road. And we didn’t post that stuff on any social media sites. We just showed the highlights to our friends before using them with our ex as extortion capital aimed to assure that she gave us back all of our long-borrowed t-shirts.
What these millennials of course fail to recognize is that no one else gives a shit what you are doing with your free time. We don’t care that you skied that glacier with your gnarly new boards. We don’t care that you went scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel. We don’t care that you were zooming down the narrow alleyways of Mumbai on your skateboard. But you should because those amazing things happened to you, and in your need to capture the moment for everyone else to see, you somehow forgot to soak in the experience for yourself.
But for the millennial generation, it as if it genuinely occurs to them that if something happens but it is not recorded on video, that it never really happened at all. Sort of like that age old question: If a tree falls in the wood, but no one is there to record it with a GoPro, does it make a sound? Well, it would if you would finally put that damn thing down for a minute and strain your ear to listen. Instead, these kids are too busy listening for the sound of someone else clapping.
So just what is it that makes this generation so dependent upon the approbation of others? Why are they so obsessed with sharing their experiences rather than going out and living them? You can’t help but feel that they’re going to walk straight into the low-lying branch of common sense simply because they’re obliviously posing for the selfie stick camera they’re holding out in front of themselves. Perhaps the answer comes back perversely to ourselves. By doting on this generation and recording for ourselves their every waking moment right from the point of infancy, we have created a false sense of importance, a reliance on the fact that there will always be somebody watching. By living vicariously through them, we have set them up with an expectation that can never be truly fulfilled because the rest of us, believe it or not, should be out living lives of our own, thank you very much. We have created a false sense of audience entitlement, the pervasive, nagging feeling that somebody should be watching me do this, dammit! It’s not enough to do something for the love of doing it; millennials want a perpetual fifteen minutes of fame that reassures them that the things they do matter, that somebody out there is watching them.
I go mountain biking and skiing to get away from the eyes of everyone else and to share an experience with nature that is unimpeded by my consciousness of others. I revel in the opportunity for a solitary moment that is transient and finite. Its very meaning comes from the fact that it is fleeting, that I share it with no one but myself and the ground I was fortunate enough to tread upon. Like when I’m singing naked in my shower, I tend to live like no one else is watching, and I somehow have to think that leaves me just a bit more appreciative of the experience.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com