Gaps in Brackets: How Quickly We Forget Our Past

The other day, my roommate and I were sharing beers and stories; as we often do on a lazy Tuesday night. He seemed to be a bit upset about the way that teens and tweens of our generation behave. I wonʼt go into gritty detail, but the gist of the conversation was that twelve-through-sixteen-year-olds are starving for attention and using the ease of communication that technology provides to broadcast fairly dire statements (“I want to kill myself,” etc...)

My argument was in favor of young people, as I feel that their behavior isnʼt any different than how I acted in my early youth as well. The difference is just the medium that people express themselves within. Things have changed, and are changing drastically, and yes, it is a bit easier to communicate via the Internet; but the consequences are the same in any scenario. Seek attention, get a response, move on to the next day. There is that rare scenario where someone broadcasts something so drastic, that it takes weeks or even months to brush off, but time progresses, people change, and emotions take a back seat to progress.

What troubles me is the lack of understanding between age brackets. What exactly happens in our transition to adulthood. Does the brain release some sort of chemical to help us forget that we were ever any different? Is it the same response that the body has to trauma? Is the past really so incredibly harmful to our psyche that it has the same effect on our brain as a traumatic experience does?

Iʼm not sure exactly what it is that causes it. Maybe we are afraid to admit to ourselves that hormones dominated our interactions. Maybe itʼs hard to accept that we may have been considered annoying little shits by our peers.

Itʼs hard to admit that I was ever starving for attention, but the fact of the matter is that itʼs true. We all were. Some of us still are. At a certain point in time the brain switches from pure cognition to a different brand of thinking. We start to self-actualize, and develop as individuals. Then comes the need to deliver our messages to others in order to gain acceptance. We start to exaggerate ourselves as much as we can to each other, and crave a positive response for validation. After a while, that need starts to subside as we get comfortable in our own shoes, and care less about judgement from outside groups.

So, we look at young people now, and it scares us. We feel the need to separate ourselves from that personality type, and cognitive dissonance happens. We start to critique in order to feel justified for our negative feelings, and as time progresses those opinions get reinforced. Gradually, we find a way to completely separate ourselves from our past selves, and young people in the process.

In my opinion, I characterize this observation as a lack of perspective. Weʼre so far from what we were, so we canʼt imagine at all what itʼs like to be in their shoes. Instead, we start to say cynical things and go on tirades about the actions of young people. “Oh, this generation is so extreme,” or, “kids these days are donʼt know how to communicate in the real world,” or, “kids are lazy because of Facebook.” Whatever the statements may be, theyʼre just justifications for a lack of perspective.

The next time you get on a bus, and see a group of teenagers, watch them. I mean, donʼt be creepy about it, but casually observe. Then think about where you were when you were that age. Think about your actions back then. Think of some of the sillier things youʼve done, and laugh to yourself about how stupid you were back then; and remember that everyone will eventually ease their way into existing. The kids are alright, I promise. 

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