Sunday, November 1, 2009

Diminishing Patience

I don't blame teenagers. When I was a teen being a 'fool' was the norm, so is today. We used to speed in dark quiet country roads with headlights turned off, we adored Converse ALL-STAR sneakers despite their discomfort and unbearable smell, we wore tight Levi's jeans despite our reproductive organs crushed in them to the point of becoming a castrato, we suckled 1 lt. Coke bottles after we played basketball all day.

I have been lucky that I survived all this frenzy of nonsense with 5 stitches on my lower chin from a bicycle race without brakes, and chronic gum disease due to suckling too much Coke. I now pay 200 AUD to my periodontist every 6 months. Most of this stuff was of course done in order to impress girls. Incapacity to follow tidal waves of hormonal commands thanks to the median moral code of 'modern civilised society' resulted in adolescent DNA miss-triggering in confusion in all sorts of directions. So no, I don't blame teens. They have every right to be fools.

Since I am now following a self imposed rehabilitation programme for treating my own bullshit I feel obliged to explain in logical terms why I hate "modern" mobile phone.

I must admit, for a long while I unfairly accused mobile phone manufacturers of a conspiracy by deliberately over-designing and overloading the device with non-essential features.

My main problem though is to do with SMS and its implications of overuse. SMS stands for "Short Message Service"1. A useful feature when first introduced, but turned into an unfortunate memetic6 accident in the evolution of human phenotype7. Today SMS acts like a virus to break communications between generations of human species.

Teens literally took SMS to an unprecedented level. They use SMS for many short messages, but not necessarily for sensible messages. Since teens' chronic bollocks of "not being understood" has never been addressed properly by their singlet wearing bear drinking fart-all-day-and-watch-reality-TV parents, somewhere along the line they discovered that they could use the mobile phone to develop their own language.

As a matter of fact "SMS teen language" is quite similar to the secret language I developed with Ali, my childhood friend. We developed a cryptic language from an alphabet of transposition cyphers2. Our aim was to send each other cryptic messages written on a piece of paper, on serious issues such as whether it is possible to have sex with the most beautiful girl in our neighbourhood.

So SMS provided privacy, convenience and lots of opportunities to establish foolish conversations between fools. Again I have no problems with this.

Drama starts when a baby boomer like me had to put up with a design destined for generation Y.

The number one problem is I have to pay for the features I never or hardly use, SMS, video, Internet, ring tones, you name it, all sorts of rubbish. It has now become a science to learn how to use the mobile phone to make a voice call, and how to respond to an incoming call out of the box. This is absurd, and I have every right to protest it to the extent of becoming grumpy.

To make things worse according to second law of thermodynamics the battery eventually becomes flat and can no longer be charged and we are forced to take our grim trip to a store to face the mobile phone sales person. This is a man usually in his twenties and there is no way of understanding what he is talking about. You just give in, say "give me the damn phone kid", sign the contract and hastily get out of the store only shortly after to realise that the new version is designed to drive you mad. The half-Chinese, half-English manual is written in the smallest possible font just to mean "your time is over grandpa" and to push baby boomers into a mass suicide. The phone now has full of traps. Any wrong key pressed will take you to a web site the service provider designed to charge you from accidental hits.

The number two problem is to do with the generation gap. Cliche it may sound, I have always admired the fact that we had "the generation gap". Baby boomers have all sorts of darn things to worry about in terms of feeling themselves useless, for example occupying public toilets much longer than their fair share thanks to an unfortunate mutation on genes controlling the prostate function somewhere back in the evolution of human males.

So by engaging communications with teens it might occur to boomers that they are in fact useful and they are now paying their debt to a larger group they belong to for being pain in the ass, this is something their DNA put together so we should not resist against it3. Unfortunately with SMS the generation gap turned into a "generation black hole", SMS sitting in the event horizon8.

The implications of a "generation black hole" could be far worse than one might think.

Today's teens in alarming rates read less, exercise less, watch reality TV, hyper-click every link they see on the Internet, develop attention deficit and anxiety disorders at a very early age thanks to SMS, MySpace, Facebook, MSN messaging, Twitter, and Red Bull. To a large extent they do not bother at all to communicate with older generations.

This is in contrast to older generations who also hated the conversation with their parents but nevertheless used to put some effort to maintain the communications started usually by their parents. Perhaps they had less distracting stuff surrounding and bombarding their attention span and they did not have choice.

Historically maintaining the virtue of "patience" has always been a problem in teen generations. Again I cannot blame them for this. We society as a whole is guilty of creating a culture of "diminishing patience". Our society feeds on anxiety and attention deficit disorder.

Exponential advances in technology, globalisation of former state economies and shareholder greed are pushing "the pace of life" to warp speed levels in a frenzy of mutual positive feedback loops. And there are many indicators to support this. Take rock music for example which died in 70's.

There are no longer groups like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd spending a year on an album, and teens who are biting their nails off for the release -usually a masterpiece- and eventually rushing into a store, appreciating its eternal flavours on a precious vinyl record. Today music, including other art forms became disposable like toilet paper. Diminishing patience is to blame.

Diminishing patience inflicts older generations too4. Today hyper-clicking5 on the Internet created a culture in which it is no longer possible to construct complex, intelligent, sustained and meaningful conversations.

We might have a chance though. Rising sea levels may push our species to slow down. We might go back to drawing board and create new memes, or bend old ones to prevent an environmental catastrophe. For that we would need patience and the virtue of "listening". We need to slow down, and re-learn "listening" and "reading" each other.

(1) SMS
(2) Transposition Cipher
(3) Passing on the wisdom
(4) Why do we need to rush -inspiration from Carl Honore-
(5) Hyper clicking
(6) Meme, memetic
(7) Phenotype
(8) Event horizon of a black hole


Attila said...

Your notorious sense-of-humor shines in this article at its best. Yet, it is so true and a real time issue. This in turn; doesn’t make you a grumpy old-gid in the minds of teens? Probably yes, but does it matter? It is all about the generation gap which you have wonderfully illustrated.

Your own contradictions always fascinated me. One hand, being an IT man you have always rejected to be thrown in to the deep frenzy of technological advancement race, on the other hand, you still are unable to define what is simple or not in IT specs of any device for an ordinary man. I recall your article of “simple mobile phone”which sounded to me very advance, thus complex to use for my mum.

Having said that, I myself have fallen into the trap of a young mobile phone sales person recently and have ended up buying an all singing and dancing top device. I must admit though; it is very engaging if not; entertaining to play with it. It is a toy for boys (and girls) in modern times! That’s it. And the manufacturing business knows this weakness in the consumer masses and continuously introducing ever-increasing specs in tiny devices.

Think for example; 12 megapixels in a mobile phone; I wonder how many teens know that it is an utter nonsense feature. You cannot do anything with it as the rest of device is not designed to co-op with such high number, but it sounds impressive; i.e. the higher the specs, the better the device must be!

Thus; come on boys and girls carry-on buying the damn things. -And me too; good-old-fool.

Attila said...

It is ironic that I received today the following comment which interacts with your article.



1930's 1940's, 50's, 60's and early 70's !

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking..

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle..

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, Subway or Nandos.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY ,
no video/dvd films,
no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no
Lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time...

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays,

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!

RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on

Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bully's always ruled the playground at school.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.
They actually sided with the law!

Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade' and 'Ridge' and 'Vanilla'

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO

And YOU are one of them!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.


Ergun Çoruh said...

Thanks Attila (my bro) for his encouraging and inspiring comments. Being a baby boomer means it is likely that you've had a great childhood and adolescence despite relative lack of material goods and choice at the time. I am glad that I was lucky enough to be born at the right time, and I can't help but feel sorry for today's kids.