Reflecting on the role of phones in society, I’m appalled at the importance this little device has in all aspects of life for the typical American.
In fact, it’s even reasonable to consider that in most cases
No phone=No friends
No phone=No job
What are the consequences of wanting to “unplug” per se?
In fact, this goes beyond phones. Laptops, iPods, Cars, TVs, Gaming Consoles, Stereo Systems, Cars, and DVD Players are all considered to be of great importance by many middle class working Americans. Is this heavy reliance on technology something to not be questioned but accepted and even embraced as a necessary by-product of a changing society?
Ween yourself off of some of your technology use for a while and realize the benefits. “Unplugging” allows for increased human interaction, something that many young generation Americans are desperately lacking in. I listened to a CEO speak on what skills are marketable in today’s job market. He said that it was incredible how many people didn’t know how to write a proper e-mail or hold a sincere conversation. He attributed this to the young generation’s excessive use of technology that detaches a person from real social context and dumbs them down. The texting phenomenon that has swept over the United States in recent years has caused young people to lose an appreciation for proper grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and use of slang in written messages. The speaker also noted that the use of passive technological forms of entertainment like TVs, computers, and phones has drastically decreased human-to-human interaction, creating young, jobless college graduates that can’t hold a casual conversation. For obvious reasons, this doesn’t translate well into a young college graduate seeking entrance into the job market.
Instead of spending free time having a pointless one minute reply texting conversation for 4 hours, pick up a book and read something that will exercise and sharpen your mind rather than dull it. If you’re not into reading, sit down with your friends or family and just have a conversation about anything. Don’t be afraid to discuss more than how your week’s been going and what stuff is coming up in the next week or two. Talk about your life philosophy or questions you’ve been asking yourself about any aspect of life. That brings me to my next point. Ask questions. No one has ever realized and corrected a flaw in society by passively accepting the world they were born into. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” Major movements like the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, black rights, and gay rights all occurred because someone looked past the a priori politically and socially accepted practices and saw morally unsound foundations built on greed and discrimination. If you want to reach an ideal state of living and happiness, you must locate the cracks in the system that we are all accustomed to and actively oppose them. The invigorating and empowering sensation that comes with standing up for what you truly believe in is one that too few people ever truly experience. Most people submit to hereditary prejudices and status quo views to assimilate with the masses. Asking questions is the way to avoid being just another cattle in the herd. By asking questions about what you feel is right, you get to know yourself. By truly knowing who you are as an individual, you ascertain a state of comfort with yourself that brings inner peace and self-acceptance. Self-acceptance leads to confidence, which may be the most important and most difficult things to have in today’s world.
Why is it that so many people are shy and timid during most of the course of a day, except when they are around a select group of people with whom they are comfortable enough to speak up? I attribute this unfortunate occurrence to the negative psychological side effects of the public school system on many kids. Let me explain. For decades now, high school has been a place of cliques, judgment, and transparency. The concept of “being cool or well-liked” is the motivation for these practices. In my high school, there was undoubtedly a hierarchy of popularity. A select group of kids are in the upper echelons of popularity, probably 20-30% of the student population. These lucky young people enjoy the benefits of having the other 70-80% be intimidated by them, aspire to look and act like them, but most importantly, not want them to dis-like them. Everyone wants to be cool. This motivation for behavior has some dire consequences for the overall happiness of the population. The first thing that “unpopular” kids do is compare themselves to the “popular” kids and locate the ways in which they are different physically, athletically, socially, and academically. Once these differences are realized, they are viewed as shortcomings of self. This naturally leads to huge problems with insecurities, the seeds of a poor self-image, a lack of confidence, social shortcomings, and a lack of happiness with private self. A large number of “unpopular” kids will attempt to change a number of things about themselves that they can control and wish the things beyond their control were different. This can lead to obsession with one’s faults, which is an utterly pessimistic way of thinking that has unfortunately consumed modern society. Why? Because the “unpopular” kids will do everything in their power to do what they think is cool and hide all aspects of themselves that they worry would forever taint their social image.
Some people might argue that these are the trials of the teenage years and that high school may be rough for some people but doesn’t have lasting effects on them. For me, it is clear that this is untrue. Although I have only experienced the four years at my high school, I have attended college for almost two years now and have met people who went to high schools all over the country. I notice in my young peers, as I notice in the adult population as well, is a lack of confident people. Confidence is very evident when you see it, and its lacking is equally apparent. An aversion to casual conversation, a weak handshake, bad eye contact, and a lot of generic approval of whatever you’re saying are tell-tale signs of a person who feels inferior to others in the world. Unfortunately, I see this social awkwardness and lack of confidence in interacting with strangers all the time. On a college campus of 25,000 students, I can say that it is a rare thing to be approached or spoken to by a stranger that someone did not introduce you to. In classes, the most likely opportunity at college to meet new people, casual conversation before class starts is not common. In fact, people are often taken aback when someone that they don’t know approaches them and strikes up a conversation. In a learning environment geared towards four years of invaluable enlightenment, how is this the case? Why don’t more people want to meet more people? I humbly suggest that this can be traced to an inherent lack of true confidence in a majority of the population that can be traced back to high school.
The vast majority of people that I observe want to blend in rather than stand out. They tend to have very simple conversations about sports, weather, or a TV show. They never say things that catch me off guard or make me ponder my own beliefs. They assume that I am interested in things that are typically associated with high approval among young males my age. They have a style of dress that either lacks individuality or expresses a specific stereotype or clique that they affiliate with. They talk badly about their piers and gossip about their friends. They hold views that show a clear hereditary influence and lack of self-reflection. Would generic conversation, unoriginal thought, a conservative wardrobe, lack of stranger interaction, slanderous gossip, and baseless and inflexible views be so prevalent in modern society if high school somehow worked differently? I can truly say I don’t think so. These negative qualities of our current society all reflect a lack of confidence, creativity, and originality that feeds hate and perpetuates the institutions and practices of the status quo, a disease of assimilation that has infected society on increasingly serious levels as public school problems have been left unsolved and the concept of “being cool and fitting in” has become the greatest motivation for individual behavior.
The transparency of high school and tendency of most kids to try to be like the popular kids and erase their uniqueness is the culprit in this situation. Kids are lead to believe that acceptance and happiness go hand in hand because of what they see in high school. Young men and women that demonstrate originality by dressing differently and actively demonstrating an interest in “unpopular” things are bullied, shunned, and largely disliked in high school. When these kids hit this opposition, their character is tested. Do they disregard the negative attention and keep doing what they’re doing or try to change to fit in better? The latter seems to be true. Social alienation in high school is a painful experience. Most kids would rather sacrifice or disguise themselves in order to avoid it. When they start acting like the “cool” kids, their reputation improves and their life is much smoother. This is observed by other kids and makes blending in seem like the obvious choice. The truth that this way of thinking seems to overlook is that we are all very different people. It is absurd to assume that 20-30% of the population could deem a set of interests as cool and have those interests accurately reflect one iota of the total number of legitimate hobbies and interests from which people can derive pleasure. However, the appeal of hobbies that are cool is driven by the desire for acceptance, and as has already been established, teenagers naturally view acceptance and popularity as priorities to discovering hobbies from which they find the most pleasure and benefit. The result of this is that young people spend the most time expressing interests and pursuing hobbies that fit the mold of “cool” behavior. Although there are a few years after high school to potentially branch out, most kids are going to keep talking, acting, and spending their recreational time doing things they’ve already spent years doing because they know nothing else. And thus, many “unpopular” kids in high school remain quiet and lack confidence as they continue through life. Likewise, popular hobbies and interests that dominate our culture are the very same ones that everyone found it beneficial to adopt in high school. These two factors combine to form the status quo and give the vast majority of Americans a herd mentality.
How could we change this? This answer is difficult and complex. The movies, TV shows, and other forms of media entertainment that dominate our culture have been representing the status quo interests for decades now, polluting young and old minds alike into thinking that things are as they should be. When young kids today see the overwhelming emphasis our culture places on individuals with beauty, power, status, talent, and wealth portrayed on TV, they are lead to assume that these people are somehow better than them and even something they should aspire to. They see high school in all of its flawed glory represented in media entertainment and assume that things have to be like that. This creates a cycle of herd mentality and elongates the dominance of the status quo. The way to change this is to change parent’s minds. The parents of the status quo must realize that individuality is the truest route to happiness. They must actively encourage their kids in all of their qualities, rather than placing an emphasis on the ones which they have seen to be well-accepted in society. Rather than encouraging their kids to pursue their own failed dreams while selfishly constricting their children’s individuality and living vicariously through them, parents should actively encourage their kids to pursue their true passions and not be influenced by criticism from others. Rather than allowing kids to have unrestricted access to television, parents should limit the exposure to media that is clearly biased towards the masses and values social status over freedom. Parents should make a point to require their kids to spend a chunk of recreational time each day interacting with other kids, playing outside, and reading or being read to. If these tactics were adopted, a more accurate perception of the necessary elements of life and happiness could be widespread. Parents should actively and ambitiously do everything in their power to make sure their kids do not allow society to convince them that some ways of thinking are inferior to others, that surpluses of material possessions lead to happiness, and that some people should be idolized and imitated because they’re so cool or beautiful.
If these very real values of modern society were eradicated, we would begin to see more respect and appreciation on the individual level. If kids entered the school system ready to make friends with a diverse group of individuals and disregard the hateful words of ignorant young people, we could reasonably expect the huge emphasis on popularity to decline, allowing more kids to feel confident in who they are and embrace what makes them different, rather than what makes them the same. Another positive result would be that the kids who previously would’ve been “popular” don’t get an illegitimate sense of vanity and blind arrogance from seeing others trying to emulate them. Vanity and arrogance have been corrupting people with power since the beginning of civilization. Blind arrogance and judgment have never been components of any great achievement of mankind. Confidence, understanding, imagination, and individuality, however, have undoubtedly been important qualities of the people who’s names are widely recognized and forever recorded in the history books. Great contributions to the legacy of mankind only come when people stop thinking like everyone else and start dreaming big for themselves. A change in high school values would have an exponential effect on the values of the masses. If the majority of kids emerged from high school feeling confident and excited to exercise their imagination, the United States would see a shift towards free thinking that would eliminate the immoral aspects of our society that should not make us proud to be Americans. If free-thinking and confidence became more widespread, the happiness of the people of this country would skyrocket. For this reason, I see a great need for parent’s to be informed and inform their kids of the dangers of the status quo and herd mentality that are cultivated in public schools.