Our youth must be shown that not all worthwhile things are instantly accessible and that there are levels of sensibility unknown to them.
I’m not going to dive into a whole conversation about why millennials are the worst — I already shot a vlog on the subject (and they’re not actually ruining everything) — but there is something to be said today about people of all ages. Call us the YouTube generation or the Netflix generation or the Spotify generation.
I Want It Now
It really wasn’t all that long ago that I had to wait until 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings to catch an episode of the X-Men cartoon on Fox. Only to learn it was a re-run again. These days, you can not only watch almost any show you want at any hour of the day, but you can even pick exactly which episode you want to watch. And there are no commercials. And you can skip ahead to any specific moment in any specific episode too.
The exact same paradigm extends to our jobs and careers. So many people are constantly looking for “get rich quick” schemes and then they’re disappointed when their new blog barely brings in pennies in its first month. What gives? And if something doesn’t deliver immediate happiness, it is quickly cast aside and ignored. But some things require more work and the reward at the end of the much longer and much more arduous journey is that much more rewarding.
Hello Mr. Postman
Perhaps that is what American educator and cultural critic Neil Postman is trying to tell us in the quote above. You don’t really come to appreciate the complexities and intricacies of fine art until you dedicate years of study to it. You don’t really experience the full extent of happiness that comes from developing a signature dish until you pour copious blood, sweat and tears into the kitchen (but hopefully not actually into the dish itself).
We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which, of course, they do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures may also suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms.
Both of the above excerpts are taken from Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, originally published way back in 1992. This was well before the Internet became what it is today and yet Neil Postman already understood the problematic circumstances of “information glut.”
There’s just so many information. There’s just so much content. It’s estimated that 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Even if you were to watch the programming on Netflix non-stop, you’d never catch up. The same is true with falling down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia or trying to listen to every song on Spotify or every book on your Kindle. You can never catch up.
Just a Bit Off the Top
What ends up happening is that we consume this content on such a superficial level, never taking the time to really consider what we just read, listened to, or watched. Because that takes work and we’re so anxious to move on to the next thing. We yearn for that next big hit of dopamine, rather than taking the time to dive a little deeper where a more profound joy and meaning can be uncovered.
Information is great. Entertainment is great. But meaning is even better. And that takes work.