Friday, September 15, 2023

The Internet Generation

Kids raised on the Internet have seen a lot of bad things.

I was surfing the Internet the other day and saw a discussion by a group of younger people - I guess Millenials, talking about the horrific things they saw online as kids.  The Internet - at least the part most of us see, has cleaned up its act somewhat.  Not long ago, there were actual websites showing "gore" videos - videos of gruesome accidents or people doing horrible things to one another.  The young people (and by young, I guess they are pushing 40 now) say they wished they hadn't seen such videos, but over time, they have come to grips with it and come out somewhat "normal."

I wonder.  I wonder if perhaps this gun nut culture and the increasing calls for violence and murder are a result of desensitization that occurs when  you watch too much violent content.  One of the respondents lamented that his parents "let him" play video games for hours and hours every day.  An interesting comment, as "gamers" are always quick to claim that first-person-shooter games (which are becoming more and more realistic) don't lead to desensitizing of violence or PTSD.  While most of these games are of the fantasy variety (swords and sandals) or military themes, some, such as the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise, encourage users to shoot people on the street.  Bonus points for gunning down hookers.

And we wonder why misogyny is on the rise.

I saw another posting online from someone lamenting they had "500 hours" into a video game, and hadn't reached a certain level.  500 hours?  At 40 hours a week, that is over 12 weeks of work - three months of your working life or 1/4 of a year, spend sitting on a couch, staring at a screen.  I can only imagine what his physique looks like.  The "gaming" industry (not to be confused with the gambling industry, which tries to go by the same name) has really created an addictive electronic drug!

And yet, the same people complain about how lousy their lives are.  The problem may literally be in front of them.

It is a different era.  Yea, I remember guys who got "really good" at Pac-Man, one quarter at a time.  And while we were all impressed at the time, the fame was fleeting.  Like, within a half-hour, no one gave a shit that you were the all-time high winner on an arcade machine.

But I digress.

Pornography is also rampant on the Internet, and by that, I don't mean the peek-a-boo pictures we used to see in Playboy back in the day. Yes, back in  the 1960's, kids would steal a copy of Playboy from Dad's secret stash behind the furnace and bring it to school to pass around during recess.  They usually got called to the Principal's office. But that was pretty tame compared to the fetish porn and BDSM that is freely available on the Internet.  And I'm not talking teenagers sharing this stuff - elementary school kids are passing around links to gore and hard-core porn via the ubiquitous smart phone.

The topic of discussion was parental filters - and whether they work or not.  Kids are surprisingly clever when it comes to circumventing parental rules, and not every parent is responsible enough to install such a filter.  So while you child may be "protected" that protection lasts only they go over to Dirk's house to shoot off BB guns and look at naughty things online.

Dirk actually existed in my childhood.  He was a problematic child in Kindergarten (!) always stuffing crayons in his ears and eating paste.  I went to his house once - his parents were quite wealthy.  He had a killer tree house and we went up there and he shot at birds and squirrels with his BB gun (at age 5!).  My parents didn't let me go back there, after I excitedly told them about the BB gun!

There's always a Dirk - he's the guy who swiped Dad's old copy of Playboy from behind the furnace and brought it to middle school.  Today, he is sharing links to the dark web with his playmates.  And teen and pre-teen boys, in particular, think this sort of thing is keen.  If you don't, you'll be called a "wuss" or worse yet - gay.  Peer pressure is very strong at that age.

While passing around a Playboy in middle school was against the rules, I am not sure it harmed us too much.  While the magazine was sexist and misogynist, it also presented women as unattainable objects of beauty - something to be coveted and appreciated.  You asked a girl if she would go to the sock-hop with you, and were devastated if she turned you down.

The sort of porn prevalent on the Internet today treats women like garbage cans - objects to be used and abused.  A weird message to sent to young hormonal boys. It makes me wonder whether this new misogyny and this whole stupid "incel" thing isn't triggered by these poor normative cues.

It seems that while overall crime rates are down from when I was a kid (by like half or more), but in recent years, in addition to them creeping up, people are becoming increasingly belligerent and hostile in everyday life.   Driving, for example, has gotten so much worse since the pandemic.  Everyone, it seems, is angry an in a hurry to go nowhere.  They tailgate and cut people off because they have to get somewhere - but they have all the time in the world to "brake check" a trucker or start a fist-fight by the side of the road.  I thought you were in a hurry, buddy?

OK, so I digress again.  Or did I?

Because I think there is a connection here.  The Internet has brought us all together and pushed us all apart.  We go online and instead of a "community" there are a series of cubbyholes and silos, isolating ourselves from one another, but lumping us into groups of like-minded individuals.  And some of these groups are indeed, baskets of deplorables.

Of course, this is their world now, the new normal, much as the television defined my generation (and too late, we realized we wasted half our lives - far more than 500 hours!) watching it and being influenced by it.  Only late in life do we realize we were snookered by a slick marketing machine.

And we were planted in front of the "boob tube" before we even were out of diapers.  Today, the same is true of the Internet.  I saw a lady at a Vermont campground with her baby in her lap, as the child scrolled and clicked on a laptop, surfing the net before they could even speak!  And we wonder why there are so many Autistic kids these days!

I wonder whether the new generation, born into this world of online living, realizes they are being manipulated and used.  Maybe they already do - as evidenced by the discussion above.  Maybe it is only us oldsters who are too stupid to realize half the stuff online is just lies designed to derange your brain and get you to spend money.  Look at these Qanonsense people - are any of them under the age of 40?  I think not.

So maybe the younger generation will "get it" and turn away from the carnival that is the Internet.  Or again, maybe not.  It is the youngsters who populate Twitter and Tick-Tock, responding to idiotic "challenges" and filming themselves doing jerky dances in the middle of a Costco.  It is the younger people who insist on owning an iPhone, not because it is better or cheaper (fail and fail again!) but so they won't be seen as "lame" for having a green texting bubble.

Yea, the next generation is just as stupid and superficial as we were.  And when they get to be our age, they will rail against the machine that snookered them, to the amusement of yet a new generation, who will say, "Yea, whatever, Grandpa!" and roll their eyes.

Seems like you can never win at this game of life.  By the time you figure it all out, well, it's too late!