Local Voices: Living In the Age of Cult of Personality – Part I

Within the social media world lurks a dual-edged law of intended and unintended consequences. Making multiple platforms’ users feel an ever increasing need for real-time self-adulation, validation and self-acceptance creates an “on edge,” constantly ever more addicted, “USER” class.

While the digital world gives its users a voice, which is a good thing, it also gives the darker side of humanity anonymous platforms from which to spew their hatred, nearly always unchecked. Young children learn how to digitally interact on social media, yet lack the communication skills to physically and mentally interact in real life settings. Conflict-resolution skills are becoming a lost art form, stoked by hostility-filled pyrotechnic pyromaniac fires ablaze in the digital universe that we were told were a thousand points of lights.

The goals of technology creators have been simple from the beginning: 1. Make as much money as possible, 2. gain as much market share as possible, and 3. keep all users “USERS” for as long as possible per game, per application, per session of connectivity.

The next time you come to a stop light at a busy intersection or lunch room, count the number of people you see on their digital devices. You will notice that most people are using their digital input (drug of choice) in this “millennium- post-age,” more than they are actively engaged in the physical world surrounding them. 

Many parents now quiet their kids by shoving an electronic device in their child’s face to shut them up, distract them, or to stop bad behavior. These devices have become the new “crack” and “crystal meth” for generations of young children. Their new developing suggestible minds are becoming “addicted.” Parents are unwittingly cultivating their children into the latest crop of mentally branded digital “USERS.”

In past generations, television was many parents’ “drug of choice” for their children. In today’s random acts of violence society, we are reaping our own series of consequences. Writer Norman Mailer links the shortening of the American attention-span as directly tied to television over-exposure.

The digital world never goes away and follows all who enter; television plays on incessantly when you can’t find the remote at a ridiculously louder volume. So parents with shorter attention spans who want to give their kids the latest coolest things they didn’t have, begin the indoctrination process of their offspring with digital input over-saturation. 

This often begins as early as their children can cry out disruptively and hold the digital “mind smoking” device. When some parents may want or need a break they reach for the latest electronic device for their children. These now “digital crack babies” will eventually have learned to only shut up once they get their “digital fix.”

We implore the stone-age techniques with our grandkids: no electronics in the living room, at meals and during evening family time together. No electronics permitted in their rooms overnight ever, for them or visitors. Electronic devices are permitted on car trips in simultaneous mutually agreed upon moderation. 

When I grew up, back in the day, there were long periods of what I used to call “forced conversation and surroundings observations,” initiated by my mother (when it was being done to me by my Mom.) Kids nowadays don’t get to get out of the culturally enriching experience of being “TAKEN” somewhere. 

I came to realize that my Mom’s endless questions, word games, reading to me, us writing poetry, thinking out loud and engaging me in the moment were her ways of keeping the two-way human connection between us alive, growing and un-impeded. Mom had a lifeline-wireless umbilical cord of love that she maintained by her Vulcan like Mind tapping directly into my thoughts and feelings by actively “playing” my mind like her own personal Game Boy- whether I liked it or not with unlimited impedance. Now as the grandparental shoe has shifted to my foot, I see the wisdom of the woman who routinely back-seat-dictionary-drove-me into becoming our family’s first college graduate. The woman who regularly hid the television cord to force me to read a book or to go outside and play, deserves more thanks than I can muster. With Mom, you always knew the real verbal stimulation and interaction was what mattered most.

The good news with today’s kids is that they are now our “I.T.” support go-to’s. The bad news is, they don’t have to always answer our calls for assistance. Have we done our homework of keeping open and alive the two-way lines of human contact and communication that are essential to staying connected to our kids and grandkids? 

When we have, the option of getting a constant “denial-of-services-notifications,” is moot. Cultivate that personality yourself or someone and something else will. Scrabble anyone?

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide for eighteen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via e-mail at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

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