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Friday, February 24, 2023

February 24, 2023: Non-favorite Trends: Kids Today

[For this year’s annual post-Valentine’s non-favorites series, I wanted to highlight some current (and in most cases longstanding) trends that really gripe my cookies. Add your non-favorites to a crowd-sourced weekend airing of grievances that’s always one of my favorite posts of the year, ironically enough!]

On a universal and understandable complaint, and a couple reasons why it’s wrong.

My sister is only five years younger than me, but there have definitely been moments in our lives when it felt like we were from radically different generations. The one that stands out most was when I visited her during her first year in college (I was in graduate school at the time), and saw she and her three roommates sitting at their respective computers in their common room, backs to each other, silently messaging each other on AOL Instant Messenger rather than, y’know, talking. I’m not saying I used only cuneiform and short-wave radio during my time in college or anything, but email was just barely becoming a thing, and those various other forms of online communication and conversation even less so. So this moment felt like a viewpoint on a very different generation than my own when it came to themes like technology and community, and I understood then—in only my early 20s no less—how folks can grumpily complain about “kids today” and their devices (or whatnot).

The very fact that so, so many generations have made the same basic complaint should of course already be enough to give any of us who would do the same pause. But there are also some specific reasons why that complaint rings false here in 2022. To start with the source of my own generational disgruntlement in that college dorm room: it’s true that kids then were beginning to communicate in different ways and forms, and that’s only become exponentially more true in the couple decades since. But ultimately, that trend has simply meant more possibilities for communication, especially when we’re not able to be together—and as a single father who is away from his sons far more often than would be ideal, I can’t sufficiently express my gratitude for the existence of text messages, of memes and gifs, of social media (when my older son likes a post on my Instagram it’s a genuine high for his old man), of chat boards on app video games (for a while Clash of Clans messages were a guaranteed place I could find the boys and I loved doing so), of all these ways in which I’ve stayed connected to my dudes thanks to kids today and their devices.

That version of the complaint isn’t just about communication, though—it also often (if not always) suggests a generation that is disconnected, from each other but also from the world around them (“nobody plays outside any more,” that sort of thing). But while there are always downsides and dangers to any new technology or generational trend, the truth as I see it is that younger generations—those of my college students and of my high schooler sons alike—are more aware of and active in the world than I ever was at their age. And one main factor in that awareness and activity like is their ability to connect with the world through technology—recently for example my sons took part in a Zoom conversation with other vegetarian and vegan high schoolers who are part of a coalition (also featuring state legislators and other activists) working to bring more diverse and sustainable food options to the state’s schools and communities. Kids today are doing things on and with their devices that young AmericanStudier could never have dreamed of, and anybody who attacks them instead is participating in a decidedly non-favorite trend.

Crowd-sourced post this weekend,


PS. So one more time: thoughts on this non-favorite? Other non-favorites of any kind you’d share?

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