Saturday, August 21, 2010

Generation Gap

There is a generation gap, and I tripped over it quite recently. Yes, I did notice "the gap" 10 years ago, when my son was a teenager. But I expected that - blaring music I did not care for, fashion I did not like (in my son's case, pants worn so low that his boxer shorts showed by several inches), tatooes and piercings by both sexes in places strange to my sensibilities (yes, I have pierced ears, but only one hole in each ear), extreme hair (such as in blue dyed, or spiked, or worse), and sometimes commonly used phrases and shorthand that I did not understand. But what I did understand was the need to express oneself differently from one's parents' generation. I had gone through all of this myself when I was a teenager, back in the Dark Ages (that would be B.C., as in "Before Computers").

In today's world, even the 50-somethings need to keep up with technology, including Facebook and Twitter, to be competitive in business. The twenty-somethings in the workplace are very competitive, and have energy that I admit I no longer have. All of this I expect, even if I do not welcome the changes.

I am talking about something else. I am talking about the twenty-something Mamas and Papas who are raising young children in today's world, a far different world than I inhabited as a young parent.

Some things have not changed. Yes, there will always be obnoxious characters in books, TV and movies that the children love (and want to watch repeatedly) and the parents loathe. The characters will change over time, but the situation will not. There will be discussions about breast feeding and co-sleeping and temper tantrums and other parenting issues that have existed for generations. The common wisdom of the day may shift, but the issues will still exist.

I think technology has changed something else -- not only the vast amount of time we spend "online", instead of being with family and friends, but also what is written. Blogging and Facebook and Twitter have allowed us, even pressured us, to reveal more of ourselves to the entire world. We spend hours with our new online "pen pals" (those of the twenty-something generation might have to look this up on Google), seeking advice, agreement and comment from people we might not ever meet.

I admit, I have a Facebook account, which has served a very useful purpose in connecting people when a good friend of mine passed away last April and in occasionally connecting with my teenage nieces. And I admit to having a blog (obviously). But I do not reveal my innermost thoughts and feelings or incidents on either, as some of the younger generation appear to do.

Wherein lies the gap, the gap in my understanding, of today's "blogs", and the desire to "reveal all". The internet has allowed an entire generation of parents to connect online, which is probably a good thing for sharing parenting information and strategies, and appeasing isolation of those caring for their young at home all day. But it has also encouraged them to reveal things they otherwise might not have, at least not to the whole world.

I wonder, what will their children turn out to be like? Having grown up in this reveal-all world, will they be as open or more open than their parents? Or will today's openness inspire a backlash of privacy when today's pre-schoolers become teenagers, as they wince while reading Mom's old blog a dozen years from now?

Only time will tell.

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