Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Generation Facebook

"When do you think it will all become clear?
'Cause I'm being taken over by a fear."

Lily Allen - The Fear

Another year has come and gone. Generation time for the human species is what? Let's say 20 years? Less if you're a teenager in one of our slave-labor backwaters like Africa or South America and your culture denies you the right to grow at all as an individual before you start cranking out crib-stuffers. Or you live in Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas or... you know what, never mind, them demographics is a-changin'. Anyway, since I was at that dangerous "one ejaculation and your life is over" age, a whole new generation has sprung up from baby teeth to toothless baby-ish spineless adulthood.

Ah, millennials.
You disappoint me. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I never had much hope for you to begin with. However, I did not entirely predict the shape your failure would take.

A decade or more ago, walking around a mall, I wondered what form future American youth counterculture would take after the "goth" craze of my own adolescence. My conclusion, given the rise of the internet, was that the iconoclastic rebellious minority of youths of this next generation would likely adopt a bohemian, art-centered, free expression mentality. I was expecting a new beat generation. Except, you know, relevant. Maybe some hippies, but not quite so stoned. Some punks with the information to know what they're rebelling against.
Instead, this has shaped up to be the most sickeningly codependent crop of youngsters in... when did the term "fop" originate again? You like to call yourselves "millennials" to make yourselves sound grandiose? You're Generation Facebook to me. You're the generation of selfies. You're the "like" button addicts. You're the purveyors and consumers of Steam achievements. You live and die by the number of total strangers who declare themselves your friends. Your spine's a rubber band, the better to bounce your aimless chatter back and forth.

Granted, that describes most human beings of any age. Here, technology truly has damned us. Instead of taking the freedom of the internet as a chance to expand horizons, bask in diversity, break down barriers, etc. the modern age has latched on to mass communication's power as a homogenizing factor. Never has it been easier to establish communication-impeding social mores and folkways. Your twit-feed now keeps you updated second-by-second on what you should like and dislike. I mean, TV was bad enough, with baby boomers and their descendants breaking into crying fits whenever Lucy Ricardo broke a nail or beating their chests in unison with Ahrnohld the terminal barbarian. The internet though has at last put the necessary interaction into Ray Bradbury's brilliant prediction of future entertainment in Fahrenheit 451. Entertainment is now about playing to your "family." Whether you're socially netting each other, playing a game or simply ordering a bag of chips through the mail, you are being subjected to a constant barrage of operant conditioning.

Oh, you're reading my blog? How kind of you! Here's a gold star. Oh, you posted a comment? Lemme just list how many comments you've posted right next to your name so you can show off. Good boy. Gooooood boooy! Don't you feel special? Don't you feel appreciated? Do yah feehl da love!?!
Now it's your turn. Invite me to your page of booked faces to tell me how speshul I am to you. Me? Oh yes me. Me, picture #457 on your wall. Who's speshul? I am! Oh thank god thank god thank dog, I needed that. Theeere's my endorphin fix for the next five minutes.

Of course once you get accustomed to that constant high, to being praised every five minutes, always being told you've achieved achievements, always having someone officially "like" you, always making new random "friends" and always being told that your victories are not small but only large, jumbo and mega-gulp, then the real magic starts. That high becomes the baseline. Anything less than being told you're "liked" begins to feel like a failure. You begin to live for the plastic grin on salespeople's faces. You start posting more and more selfies begging like a beaten puppy for that constant validation. You stop playing any games in which there's a chance you might lose.

Want a look at the new face of humanity? Go into an online game and see players quit as soon as they get a couple of deaths on their record. Watch them surrender five minutes into a game, as soon as the virtual going gets tough. Watch them in college classrooms, sitting meekly, opinionless, blankly staring through both questions and answers until it's over and time to speak freely again - but only for mutual validation!
"Oh emm gee I love that."
"Oh emm gee, me too!"
I love lamp.
Can't go wrong with lamp.

I've heard lots of praise of this new generation being so open, so free, so interconnected, so much less prejudiced. Bullshit. You're interconnected like the PVC pipes in your basement and just like them, you're hollow most of the time, until the shit starts flowing. You're not less prejudiced. You're just too gutless to admit your prejudices. You've imbibed that "diversity and tolerance" pablum they feed you in school for twelve years until you're unable to do anything but nod along with the political correctness. You cycle catchphrases because you've got nothing else, because your teachers never made you learn Shakespeare because it might upset you, and every grade was curved so you only need compare yourselves to each other, because all your life you've been getting points for good behavior. This is what you've grown over the past twenty years, western society: a harvest of emotional cripples for whom the nobility of honesty is only an ironic backdrop to their quality-independent mutual validation, for whom the word "friendship" amounts to the click of a mouse.

So if you're looking for someone to stand up against society's ills, look no further than... grandpa. Because these latest snot-nosed schmucks in backwards baseball caps and muscle shirts sure as hell are not going to take the chance of doing something unpopular.
There is no counterculture these days. No rebels, no young turks, no more self-hating narcissists. Just a homogenous mass of codependent lapdogs.

That's my rant. Enjoy the new year. Second verse, same as the first.
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