Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kids, What Are We Going to Do With These Kids Today!

A few weeks ago, I promised a post about what's wrong with kids today (a subject which has been the basis for an angry diatribe or two in my day). However, instead of some contrived analysis as to why the youth of today is so much worse than my generation (which, as you can imagine is a speech, that in the history of younger generations' relationships with their older counterparts, has never been omitted), I'd like to, in part, defend our young hedonists.

Well, not defend per se…let's be clear about something: I think it's just plain dumb that people (young or old) continue to systematically document all of their illicit and shameful acts online (sorry to sound like the spokesperson for some Council for the Preservation of Culture).

I think a whole lot of folks (young and old) would agree with the preceding contention. In fact, Eric Schmidt, the loose lipped CEO of Google (an apparently very large and important corporation--I can't for the life of me figure out what they do, besides sell ads and give me free email of course) said this past summer, that at some point today's youth will have to change their names or identities to escape their "cyber past."

First off, just changing names probably won't do the trick. There are countless companies that are working on cataloging everything on the internet (of which Google is probably the largest) as well as making great strides in facial recognition and image processing technology. So, as far as I can foresee, today's documenting pleasure-seekers are going to have a hard time deleting their shameful (not to me of course, just Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin and the like) and possibly felonious pasts.

Admittedly, one of the central tenets (and considerable driving force) of the internet is to collect and process all information (that of course includes those pics you posted on Facebook from your drunken post-high school prom party).


Schmidt, the jester in this particular court of public opinion (just in case you were wondering, I'm not the king…just the trusty--and probably crooked--advisor) said, on a separate occasion, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

A noble sentiment indeed, albeit slightly puritanical, it is, not to mention, a bit detached from reality. As someone who was once an impetuous youth, it's clear to me that Schmidt's little plan probably won't pan out. Kids (not to mention adults who should know better, but clearly don't), will act out.  As long as technology allows them, they're going to want to relive their fun on video and in pictures--on the social internet.

I think Schmidt's broader point (or what I am surmising to be his broader point, mostly to serve this post…) still stands. Shame is powerful, and the struggle between it and our normal human urges and nature may end up being beneficial. In five, ten and 15 years, as our aforementioned hedonists are entering and exiting their twenties, they will have to face up to their pasts.

This is a new phenomenon, it used to be that a generations missteps dissolved over time, allowing distorted memories to blur, romanticizing anything that could cause shame. And, certainly, today's youth will blur and romanticize (if they haven't started already), but they will have a inscrutable catalog of off-putting truth with which they will have to reconcile.

I don't think this is a bad thing. In fact, I think people are going to be forced to accept each other more. As we collectively face the eventual hangover of our excess (in case you were wondering, we are currently living through the hangover of some capital financial and corporate excesses, I just hope we can face up to the facts and make necessary changes), we will prove Schmidt wrong (probably). We will prove that such superficiality as mistakes made in the past, have no bearing on ability, insight or value. These collective missteps will indeed make us a more compassionate, emotionally intelligent and forgiving people.

In other news, the internet might be making us stupid.  Any thoughts, Mr. Schmidt?