Recently I was at a funeral, the only gathering I wish there were less of, trying to provide what comfort I could to a mother who just lost a son, a suicide.
I was in a group, with parents of children aged between 19 and 25. Young, just like the boy who killed himself.
The death had shaken everyone up. We realized that no matter how we try to ignore it and detach ourselves from it, the unanswerable things in life find ways to remind us they’re real. Death happens. And suicide—no matter if some cultures find it honorable—is simply its most painful form. It was never a part of our culture, but is fast being woven in at an alarming rate.
I know I said it’s useless to ask, but why would kids at their most vivid, most exuberant, most alive, ever think that death could be a solution? Are they seeking a higher form of existence?
So I began to ask the parents in our group, “Do you really know enough about your children to answer this question, if you really had to?”
Think. Apart from fielding allowance requests and requests to stay out a little later, just how much do we truly know about today’s generation? A generation that is eternally plugged and logged on, Tweeting, Googling, torrenting, uploading, posting, tagging, adding and disliking, according to their own personal specifications. Generation “I,” after Generations X and Y, so to speak.
True, some parents proudly own their own Facebook accounts, and regularly post their daughters’ report cards or photos of latest family trips, but how many of these parents could correctly define “hits,” “virals” and “memes”? Or give the difference between “fail” and “epic fail?” Or confidently translate FTW, ROFLMAO and RTFM?
That being said, how many of us can truly communicate with a generation that speaks so casually in abbreviations? I know of a mother who communicates with her son only through his gym instructor. Only then are the wishes of the mother followed. Sounds familiar?
Basketball or a picnic
Back then, the only thing parents and children needed to bond was a game of basketball, or a picnic near a river, or a few songs and stories before bedtime. Today it seems that without an iPad or a 2 mbps connection, at least, family members cannot find more than two sentences to say to each other.
As a test, I brought up “Angry Birds” and “Plants vs Zombies” to the group of parents with me at the funeral. Judging from the blank stares I got, I assume that there are a lot of houses full of deafening silence from communication and generation gaps between parents and children everywhere.
Many of the mothers in the group shared how their sons are very detached. And I said, how can one not be, when all of today’s gadgets are intent on decimating our senses of smell, touch and taste? Having sex in cyberspace without intimacy? It is not enough that our eyes, hands and ears are focused on tiny screens.
As such, Facebook, YouTube and all these networking sites have become our world’s new religion, if not the new drug. Many are not aware of the damage it can do. I find it almost amusing that when I was younger, my biggest concern was where to go clubbing or whether or not I would get picked up. Today, the young ones are concerned only with whether or not their profile photos look good. The new drug stares at them every day.
40 as the new 60
Today, if you are not familiar with a new gadget, you become light years older and farther from what’s happening. How can a Generation I child ever connect with hopelessly non-techie parents? The “I” child will get the impression that the parent is not interested in his world. This is how communications start to deteriorate. For non-techie parents, 40 then becomes the new 60.
Here is something just as important. Today’s gadgets and technology seem to have slowly edged out a family’s need for spirituality.
Of all the parents I spoke to that day, nobody had a family priest. Although I sincerely believe that all parents mean well and honestly try their very best, something big is missing.
With so many things going on in the virtual world and the real world, it seems nobody has time to seek advice from a godly man. In our time, we had Fr. James Reuter; we had somebody real to listen to us and to speak to us in return.
Today, a young person can only seek inspiration from Wall Photos, and random quotes from friends and perhaps the new YouTube sensation.
I truly believe that Facebook is the loneliest planet in this universe. Many may not agree. I believe that with the wrong state of mind, it could lead to months of depression, detachment and despair.
If a young person cannot talk to his or her parents about a problem, he or she must at least be able to talk to a priest, or any spiritually strong person, depending on his or her religion. Whether it’s a pastor, a monk or a rabbi, it is important to have somebody other than Google answering the questions and confusions of a young soul.
Parents, if you can’t talk to your kids face to face, send them a text message, asking them to step away from the computer. The paradox of communication nowadays. Remind them that a real world exists beyond their screen. Share your meals, home-cooked and lovingly prepared. Do away with fast-food, even for a bit. Look into each other’s eyes. Hold each other’s hands. Cherish. Relish. Communicate with people, not with machines pretending to have a soul.
One can read the words “I love you” on a screen, but we all do agree that hearing it is the biggest high.