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Monday, September 05, 2011

Social Shallowness and the Young

The young mystify me.  The mindset keeps me awake at night sometime.  You'll remember the Young and the Restless from a while back.  The fickleness, the erratic emotions and behaviors, the wild swings in emotion.

I've been on the Design Team for a new flight attendant training program.   I've been sequestered in Seattle much of the summer months.  Planning, designing, thinking, all of that.  There are 15 of us.  A piece of our program is going to deal with a sort of generational study -- looking at the four different generations currently existing together, trying to work together, in this day and age.  It looks at the differences in thinking, working, communicating, home life, values, what's important and what isn't.  Fascinating stuff!  We've looked at the Veteran group, the Baby Boomer group, and the Gen X and Y groups.  And now that I've been dealing with it, thinking about it, and working on this program, it seems to return to my mind regularly as I go through my days.

The group that continues to have me confounded is the Gen X and Y groups.  I've got numerous friends in those groups.  And I'd never want to point fingers and accuse.  But I am wondering.  I'm wondering about commitment.  I'm wondering about long-term.  I'm wondering about balance and centering.  All of which appear to be missing.  I've heard several younger buddies say simply in passing, "I think I'll just quit and go work somewhere else...."  Umm, okay.  Really?  After five or so years of devoting yourself to a super fantastic job you'll just up and quit?  Weird.  I've heard statements such as "I've got nothing keeping me here."  To which I asked about the human element -- "Don't you have any friends or people you've met here....like ME!....that you feel any connection to?  The answer was a shrug of the shoulders and sort of a blank, noncommittal stare.  Nope, I don't mean a thing. Disposable is a word that comes to mind.

Gosh, where will that leave us as a society?  Say in ten, 20 or 50 years from now?  What will our social structure look like?  Will our work groups, church groups, neighborhoods, groups of friends, be solid?  Tight?  Together?  I hear statements on the far ends of the emotional scales -- far left, then far right -- and wonder where the middle ground is.  Wonder where the balance or center point is.  And I wonder who is around to help mentor, teach, Life Skills 101 to those who need it.  It all feels shallow to me.  Words in passing, catch phrases roll off the tongue with flippant sort of stylistic contemporary attitudes.  Sense of entitlement floats through my thoughts. 

I walked up and put my hand on the shoulder of a friend who I hadn't seen in a week.  Not a long time.  Just that we have become pretty darned good friends through the years.  I got a look, a stare, not good, not bad.  A nothing, really.  He started in on something or other about something or other.  I waited.  Waited.  Oh and, then, yeah.....finally......"How are you doing?" I finally got asked.  It just doesn't seem right to me.  And I worry for the future of this globe and its people. 


Jonna said...

What I think is that the word and meaning of 'community' and 'friend' has changed, they are no longer limited to those you are in physical contact with on a frequent basis. As an old Boomer, I find it fascinating and I think I love it. You can stay in close touch with someone half a world away in ways that you might never open up to with the person in the next cubicle.

So, they don't have anything tying them to one place or one job, they can take their friends with them. There is no more job loyalty because the companies we worked for that returned that loyalty with perks no longer do it. You are disposable to them, so it seems more logical that you not depend on them.

Wayne said...

Jonna hit it head on!

BosGuy said...

I think think that people are generally good and good intentioned, but even the very best of us have had times when we were a bit more selfish and shallow than we'd like to admit.

I also think that these traits manifest most when we are youngest. We are still learning about ourselves, others and how to live our lives.

I suppose I'm an optimist at heart who believes that most people are good so these situations you describe - I ascribe to you meeting someone who's still growing up. It doesn't justify their behavior but it doesn't exactly shock me or make me "weep for the future" as the snooty maitre'd said to Ferris Bueller and his friends when they crashed the fancy French restaurant for lunch.

Ur-spo said...

In "Bowling Alone" the author laments the passing of social networks at home/work/town that 'glued us' together. Younger generations are 'on their own', which grave consequences to them and to society.

Greg said...

It's just weird to think of the next generation growing up believing in a disposable society. My parents were both teachers, each working for 33 years at the same schools. My brother has worked for the same grocery change for almost 20. I'm celebrating my 13th anniversary at my current job in a few weeks. And in this day and age, where jobs aren't as prevalent as they once were, I couldn't imagine just saying one day, "meh, I'm going to quite and do something else."

Cubby said...

In forty years the digital children of today will be running this country. I hope I'm dead by then.

Is it wrong to say that?

Will said...

I am not a fan of The Disposable Society. It began, I suppose, with disposable ball point pens and razors. Then it was disposable cameras, disposable diapers, disposable contact lenses -- and from there it was just a small leap to disposable people.

Bridge Journey said...

So many really articulate and affirming comments here.
I want to say I hear your angst in your post...and I am not a fan of the disposable mentality either. Then I really want to "amen" these comments above mine.