I can’t help rolling my eyes when someone older than me begins a sentence with, “Back when we were younger…..” I roll my eyes because I know that sentence is going to end with a comparison of today and yesterday as if the contexts are the same and as if then was far far better than now. It’s just a tendency I guess of people to do that because I have to admit, generations are vastly different. Not that we can help it, but I feel like it’s a redundant comparison. Yet, I find myself doing that a lot these days. I am not proud of it, because I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into that person. I was going to be the cool adult, who’s privy to the newest trends and all the urban slang. Unfortunately, I’m not even close. I say this in my twenties, I dread to think how I’ll be in my fifties.
When the fidget spinner became the most sought-after toy I was extremely taken aback. I was shocked that children’s toys and things children get excited about are now severely lacking in creativity. If you have ever had the privilege of playing with a fidget spinner you’d know that it is just a simple three-point rotating device which does nothing more than spin, absolutely nothing. How that is exciting and cool is beyond me! That’s just one example. I belong to the generation when toys and games required applying the mind and using your limbs. I will admit I don’t belong to the generation when toys meant a discarded rubber tyre and a stick but nonetheless, our toys were extremely exotic.
I belong to the generation of Beyblades and Pokemon cards. Pokemon cards were basically a child’s early induction into the world of gambling, battling and trading cards so that you could collect many and then trade them in for real things. Beyblades were a modern take on spinning tops. Even though they were pretty basic it involved some skill and intelligence. Board games like ‘Scramble’, ‘The Game of Life’, and ‘Monopoly’ are now nearly extinct. Now when I see five-year-olds playing on iPads I recall when my mother thought TV was destroying my life. Children I meet don’t like to be out playing for more than ten minutes unless they’re forced to, they’re very content watching YouTube videos on their parents’ smartphones.
I am not generalising, I am referring to those kids I’ve seen do this. I guess it’s not really their fault, everyone buys what is sold to them. Kids want to look good in the eyes of their friends and if a friend says that something is cool, the message will soon be relayed to parents. I found myself once trying to explain to a kid the fun of playing games we played as kids like- Marco Polo and Hopscotch. I was completely thrown off when the kid stared up at me as if to say that I was crazy and had lost the plot. I gave up making a case for such games after that.
When I was taken to visit somebody with my parents as a child, they always forced me to play with the other children. It was awkward and extremely difficult but we didn’t really have much of a choice. I’ve noticed that when two kids who’ve never met are put in the same house usually they just go sit in front of the TV or they play on the phone. I just can’t wrap my head around it. I guess that’s why my parents are so in shock of my generation, they are not able to cope with this magnitude of change that’s why I have actively made an effort to go easy on them but only recently.
I guess access makes a world of a difference. When we were kids access to technology and to screens was limited and monitored. Children today have the access, when the world is available to you on the computer or on the screen who needs much else? Language is another thing, every day there are new acronyms and terminology that keep coming up and I just can’t keep up. I completely avoid the new acronyms because I’m very afraid I might use them wrong. It’s hard enough with auto-correct these days, acronyms just make things harder. Now every conversation takes place online, the concept of waiting by the landline is a thing of the past.
Change isn’t hard to process but letting go of certain things is difficult. While I might be better equipped to empathise with these changes solely because of my age I can never bring myself to be a part of it. I love emojis and all the new things, but if I have to know where to use ‘IKR’, ‘BTW’, ‘FIY’, etc. I will go insane very quickly. Sometimes I make the effort so as not to feel out-dated, rest of the time I am just walking on eggshells hoping nobody catches on to the fact that I have no idea whether the acronyms stand for something else now.
Language and its usage changes over history and this is no secret. From Shakespearean English to what it is today, you know language whether national or regional is constantly contested and reinvented. I can see a historian in the future reading chat logs and e-mail threads from the 21st century wondering why language is so complex, just like those who wonder why Shakespeare couldn’t just say things in a straightforward manner. I am not saying the difference between generations is a bad thing. But to think that one day everything we know today will be branded ‘vintage’ is hilarious. Will collectors buy different models of iPhones at auctions? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
When I see the young kids today, they remind me that I am the one growing up. I see the confusion in their eyes when they try to relate to the games and toys I talk about and I feel suddenly very apologetic for laughing at my parents and my grandparents’ recollections of what their toys and games were at some point in time. Back when we were younger times were different….but not better.