Part of the series God: from Magic to Motivation
So I ask my son, “You’re seventeen now, you’ve never had a girlfriend, that I know of anyway. Do you like girls? If you don’t, that’s fine.”
Well, he rolls his eyes and says, “Dad, girlfriends are for guys that can’t figure out how to find internet porn.”
I was at a friend’s birthday party in the fall. I was talking to my friend’s brother-in-law about how things have changed due to the internet. And, would society be able to keep up? That’s when he opened up and shared this precious father-to-son moment above with me.
I still don’t know exactly what to think about it.
Another friend of mine has three children. One is a girl in college, one is a girl putting the finishing touches on High School, and the baby boy is half a year away from entering High School. My friend likes to tell a story about how the middle child was planning a beach party for one of her past birthdays. Mother and father were still going to chaperone and so the father, teasing his children, suggested his youngest, the boy, should come along with the gaggle of teenage girls to the beach. The middle girl was annoyed.
The then-twelve-year-old boy quickly quipped, “Why? There are bikinis and girls on the internet. Same thing.”
The middle child grew disgusted. The father, though, always a man of right and wrong, replied with some emotion and emphasis.
“No son. It’s not the same! That’s not even close to the real thing compared to when it’s all right there in front of you.”
The boy stayed home. The parents disabled the internet while they were away.
Maybe not as harsh as the first one, really, but it’s still hard to process. The cultural shift has already happened due to the grand adoption of new technology in our lives. It’s absolutely incredible what we have access to now, but the pragmatic questions remain – will it work?
The major advances in civilization are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur. ~ A. N. Whitehead
I have definitely not been an early adopter when it comes to texting, or any of the trappings of smartphone culture. That’s not my bag, baby. But I have watched as some of my friends have gone from disinterested denial to grudging acceptance and finally to complete conversion. We’re from the middle generations branded “Echo” or “X” or “Y”. We started with wonderment but quickly fell into poorly directed angst and avarice. Now we’re gearing up for the creaky and cantankerous years when it will become impossible to teach us old dogs anything new.
I can only draw on a small sample, but from what I’ve witnessed texting has endangered as many relationships as it has initiated. I know of three couples that have recently been at the point of separation due to fights that have started over misunderstandings in a text.
One of my friends complains about the lack of nuance. There is no body language. He doesn’t know how to read the intent behind the choppy sentences and shortened words. By the time he calls his sweet beau to get some clarification, it’s already escalated to, “What the hell do you want, anyway???”
Old culture is trying to get the new technology to do the work of the past, in the old way. But technology has a long history of, to use an old fashioned saying, throwing down the gauntlet. The old ways won’t work, and it’s the job of the new generations to figure out ways that it will work for them. Any advice from us old guys just sounds like a boring lecture or sermon anyway, something to ignore or only pay lip service to.
One couple I know seems to have found their own little niche when it comes to texting. They keep in touch during the workday with their own version of a word game. If the opportunity presents itself, and they’re feeling creative, they play a game of puns. If the last text had a word with two meanings, the reply is a play on that word. And then they carry on until the joke runs its course. They seem to have caught on to how the text isn’t what you should take so seriously or literally.
Personally, I have a cordial dislike for puns. They can be witty and even appropriate, but I’m just not that interested. I mean, even Shakespeare delighted in puns. And saying Shakespeare is an important writer is like saying your favourite band of all time is the Beatles, or like saying Disney is the best film company of all time.
When I turn aside my own cranky prejudices, I do admit the Beatles were an amazing team that turned songwriting into a creative game. They played with words, moved lyrics around and arranged images bordering on the absurd. They committed to their music and learned it’s natural progressions and passions. Shakespeare did this too in his plays. Strangely enough, Shakespeare even played with gender roles, often dressing up boys to look like girls. Shakespeare seemed to know it wasn’t about the clothes, or how you dressed them up. If you can’t take them anywhere, if they can’t play nice and build a good relationship, we’re all screwed.
I keep thinking about that seventeen-year-old boy’s choice. If porn’s easier, what’s going to convince him that a real girl is better, is worth the work? What does it mean for future relationships?
I’m not against porn at all. It’s always been there, really, no matter who or how we limit access to it. We even change the spelling, if we need to (after all, “pron” gets the information across just as much as “porn”).
I’m more worried about how it’s done.
Can a society survive if the visual, the image, the easily accessed, the simple text, is more important than the real thing right in front of you? More important than the hidden things that might take some effort to reveal?
I don’t know. I don’t even know where to start.
What do you think?