Anti-social people in glass houses…

The young generation today is constantly accused of being anti-social. Indeed, I have previously written about the evolution of communication in defence of those who sit in public with their friends whilst being glued to their mobile phones. But what I think is interesting is there is a hypocrisy at play here, especially when older generations are the ones accusing the younger generations of being anti-social or acting in some way in an inappropriate manner. More so, I put it to you that this “anti-social behaviour” is far from new to this generation and has, in fact, being going on for generations.

Take this scene, which I experienced in the local tax-avoiding coffee shop franchise the other day:

A family of 3 generations, all reading and not talking to each other

The above was a shining light moment on 3 generations and their natural habits. All three have gone out together to a social place, all three have subsequently engaged in their own media and are not engaging with each other. In the case of the grand-mother, she is reading the paper. The daughter is on her mobile and the grand-son is on a tablet device playing a game.

This little scene perfectly demonstrates my point. Three generations, three different media to distract themselves with and all three doing just that, rather than choosing to chat with each other. And this is the key point, we have been doing this for generations and it is merely the media we use to distract ourselves that marks us apart.

For my generation, we were accused of being anti-social because we had walkmans in the late eighties. We would sit with our giant microphone style headphones strapped to our heads, the music clearly audible to those around us. In the mid-nineties of course this had become phone calls and 100 character texts (and for a brief while, rather amusingly, paging). The beginning of the mobile phone era had begun. And in the mid-naughties (2000s) the iPhone changed everything again, enabling us to actually use the internet and social media reliably through a mobile device. The ‘look-down’ generation had arrived, perched on the edge of their seats, leaning over the small screen and typing messages to all of their friends rather than actually speaking to them as they had done before. Now the latest generation of children are glued to their tablet devices as well, playing all manner of app based games or absorbing the latest from the social-sphere.

But whilst our generations have suffered the accusations of the older generations, largely because our distractions were electronic, they were no different in their day and their own parents would no doubt have considered them anti-social little heathens, incapable of any sort of social engagement that didn’t involve pirate radio stations. The quintessentially British concept that you should not, under any circumstances, talk to other people in public unless you knew them has been bred over the generations. As the grand-mother in our picture shows us, she is just as happy to engage in reading the paper as the other two are in using their devices.

Of course, some people would try and say that reading the paper is a much more social thing to do, which is of course nonsense. The simple fact is that in this case we distract ourselves instead of talking to each other. The irony is that those on devices are probably talking to other people over ‘the network’ whereas in the past they were simply reading about the outside world and not actually engaging in anyone. And this irony is well documented. There are plenty of old films that show couples sitting together reading their individual papers or books and not talking to each other.

The reality is that each generation accuses the one after it of being anti-social. This happens because the latest generation use the latest media and the generation before them uses this as the excuse for criticism. The lesson to be learned is, if you’re going to be the one to assess someone else as being anti-social, make sure that you don’t do it yourself first…it is highly likely that you do in your own way!

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