I went back to my hometown last month. Prince George. I was there for a week. I had a high school reunion and all sorts of fun adventures including … oh, I dunno, going to the Mall, Rollerskating with a cute girl, lunching with my teacher from Grade 7, hiking up Cranbrook Hill with my ex-girlfriend, talking about Buddhism with my old friend Nathan etc… But one thing I found disturbing when I walked around my old neighbourhood was the fact that the kids weren’t outside playing. The streets felt so empty. I was flabbergasted. Where were the kids?
I saw a couple of kids walking around now and again but for the most part, the streets were devoid of children.
Years ago, when I was living in that neighbourhood, on that street, I seem to recall the streets being chock-full of kids. We sold lemonade from our little lemonade stands, we had yard sales, we biked around, we played street hockey, my brother and I made videos (involving other kids in the ‘hood), I put on plays in the basement… the list goes on. I had a full and active life. Other kids in the neighbourhood seemed to have full, active lives as well.
I asked my friend why she thinks kids don’t play outside. She made a gesture with her hands that suggested texting (which is also the same gesture you would use for playing video games). I was immediately filled with sadness.
Of course she’s right. Of course most kids (in North America, at least) own iPhones, iPads, loads of video games and I’m sure they’re all consumed with their online lives. I’m sure 1/3 or half or even more of their lives are spent in cyber-space (versus Meat-Space).
A telling moment. When I was on the plane arriving in Vancouver, a teenage girl was glued to her phone. “This will be the most EPIC Facebook status EVER!” she claimed. “It’ll probably get, like, 25 likes!” Perhaps it will, my teenybopper friend, perhaps it will… but does it really matter? What do you want, a brownie?
Everything is about moderation. Technology is fine with moderation. Spending excessive amounts of time online, playing video games or texting friends seperates you from reality… from real, 3-Dimensional reality. For me, there is still something nice about going to a coffee shop (preferrably not Starbucks) and sipping on a cup o’ Joe as I read a good book… or chatting with a friend… or drawing…
I had a fairly active childhood. I’m sure, with the right parenting, kids today can still have a full, active childhood, but I can’t help the feelings of sadness that I felt when I saw those old streets so empty and lifeless, knowing that inside, the kids were more than likely glued to their Macs, iPhones etc. etc… I don’t want to be a curmudgeonly character railing at the “foolishness of youth”, because I also benefit from all of these new, fancy technologies… but … y’know… I think balance is important.
Hey, at least we can still make “EPIC” Facebook statuses, right (or as my friend calls it, “Wastebook”)?