We let elementary schools give our children 20-minute silent lunches and 15-minute recesses, and reward them for not speaking for nearly half of their day. We take them to doctors and psychiatrists beginning at age 3 or 4 for “ADHD”, giving them medication that alters their brains to treat them for one of the most tragically over-diagnosed conditions of our time. We let them watch hours of television and play video games instead of sending them outside to play with the neighborhood kids. We protect them from disappointment, injuries, bad grades, and getting picked last for teams. We teach them that dressing differently or normal childhood behavior can get them suspended or expelled from school, further preventing them from socialization. They never learn how to be a kind, functional, well-integrated part of society because they’ve never been allowed to teach each other what is acceptable. They’ve never learned the lessons of the playground because there barely is a playground.
We hide behind the curious anonymity of the internet, mocking, berating, degrading, and belittling the opinions of others via memes and comments, seemingly disconnected from the reality that there is a person on the other side of the words who has feelings. We spend hours attached to our electronic toys, checking our texts, our emails, YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, blindly believing the interaction via social media is a replacement for a cup of coffee or lunch with a friend. We text when we’re driving, we teach our children that machines are better than people, and we try to multitask with abandon. We barely know our neighbors, and busy ourselves in an attempt to satisfy every inner ambition and whim. We’re on a crash course of selfishness and ignorant solitude. Likes and upvotes are a poor consolation prize.
And yet we’re shocked when someone we’ve never noticed goes berserk and shoots up a school with a gun, because we ignored that person as an outsider, firmly convinced that sort of thing could never happen to us. We’re floored when someone bombs a fairly public place without notice, though there were likely many people around, oblivious to suspicious behavior. That sort of thing could never happen to us. Reports of random violence picked up by a media increasingly hungry to shock us and send us running toward their favored political party continue to fuel our sense of social betrayal and horror, but we fail to open our eyes. These things could never happen to us.
These things will continue to happen. We’re raising a generation of entitled, medicated brats who think they need an iPad to be happy and simply must have a cell phone so they can text during class. They can’t handle emotional hurt or pain because they’ve never really been allowed to interact with their peers, and react erratically as children do, but we trust them around our weapons or let them sulk in darkened rooms for hours, unchecked because it’s easier than parenting. We let mentally unstable people flounder because we are loathe to interact with others unless a keyboard is involved. We compartmentalize and organize while mentally infirm or fanatical zealots seethe on the sidelines, finally erupting all over our neat little lives.
I don’t know if things will ever change, if we can ever truly extricate ourselves from a world that rewards internet fame or YouTube notoriety over being a good citizen. I hope so, but I look around me and see the creeping effects of digital immersion and I am not optimistic.
It’s just too simple to be apathetic, and challenging to take back something that slipped away without notice.