You might be wondering – where is the Romanian connection here? There are some questions at the end of the post I could really use your help in answering! Basically, I want to hear your thoughts on the current youth culture in Romania.
Here are some of my thoughts on my generation, the American Millennials:
Ask a young American what they think about NATO and you might get an answer something like “NATO…yeah…is that like a new K-Pop group? I love Girl’s Generation!”
I grieve for the future of my nation.
I don’t want to hate on my country. We do a lot of things well. We’re super helpful in a crisis, usually (for example, when thousands of people were homeless after Hurricane Katrina, people opened their homes to total strangers and helped them get back up on their feet while the government was doing Lord knows what). I have witnessed the way communities can support each other.
But my fellow Americans are also incredibly uninformed and disinterested. Forget understanding global issues because most citizens can’t even recall those pesky NAFTA countries. Most young people would rather watch the same Kylie Kardashian Vine seven hundred times in a row then watch the State of the Union address. Ask our young people things about celebrities or to describe the rise and fall and rise of Justin Bieber’s career or to analyze the differences between iPhone versions – they can tell you anything. But other than that? Probably not.
I weep. But can I blame them?
I am part of a weird segment of the population that grew up on the cusp of technology. I’m allegedly a Millennial, but since I have an advanced degree and haven’t lived at home since 2002, I don’t really feel like I fit. But I’m definitely not a Gen X – I was only in middle school when the Dot-com bubble happened.
I remember my childhood before we got a computer. I remember before the internet and cell phones. I remember learning to write HTML on my own in 7th grade when we finally got internet. I had the dopest X-Files GeoCities page ever. <blink> for life! (I want to believe).
I think we already established that I was definitely a bookworm, and I would frequently go outside and ride my bike if my mom needed to use the phone. Because dial-up. I would say I had a fairly nice childhood. It wasn’t full of fancy things, but I was happy and well fed (like, really well fed), and seriously, what more could a kid want?
If you’d like to feel old, think about how 1996 was twenty years ago. In 1996, we had dial up internet and a car phone. In 2016, five year olds have iPhones. Teenagers today have never had to live without technology. Most of them can’t function without it.
Students don’t know how to have a conversation face-to-face. I give my students five minutes of free time occasionally in class. When I first started teaching, students would talk to each other, laugh, be obnoxious (you know, like regular teenagers). Now, it’s just silence. They’re snapchatting each other selfies while they’re in the same room…I have trouble relating to them.
Don’t even get me started on this ridiculous “digital native” BS narrative that olds have come up with to describe the younger Millennials. These kids don’t know how to use a computer. They barely know how to use their phones. My students can’t even find Microsoft Word on the start menu – seriously. I have to show them every time where to find it. They also can’t remember where it is. Sometimes I have to show them several times in a class. It’s not hard to find!
I can’t make this stuff up.
…and yet, I can’t say that this is ~all~ young people. I’ve met so many young Americans who are passionate about politics, arts, science, sports, and academics. There are many students who see their technology as a tool and not a lifeline. Their smart phone is a personal assistant and not a family member. So I have to keep in mind that like every generalization or stereotype, there are many people who don’t fit the mold. And as much as it sounds like I am a super huge hater, I really do like my students who are app addicted just as much as I like the ones who are innovative and forward thinking. They show incredible focus and dedication, just in a different way than my other students.
So, after that incredibly long and hopefully not too cynical diatribe about the youth of America, here is what I am wondering:
- Does Romania have “generations” like we do in America? Or does it fall more along the lines of before/after Communism?
- Do you see any of the same problems in Romanian teenagers? For example, do Romanian teenagers regularly involve themselves in politics, arts, or sciences? Or would they rather discuss clothes/music/etc.?
- What was it like to be a Romanian before and after the rise of technology?
- What was it like to come of age during Communism? Or during the rise of technology?
- Have you observed Romanian teenagers preferring to be on their phones rather than socialize? If yes, do you also see this across generations?
- Do Romanians of all social and economic strata have cell phones? Smart phones?
- Does the availability of fast internet and technology influence the way the different generations get their news? For example, would it be unusual for a middle aged person to get their news from Twitter or Facebook rather than the TV? Would a younger Romanian get their news from social media, websites, the TV, or not at all?
- Do Romanian youth with access to technology demonstrate a greater knowledge of its workings? Do they teach technology and coding in school?
- Do you feel like technology helps young Romanians connect to their heritage and Romanian culture? Or do you feel like it helps them leave it behind?
- And last but not least, are all generations doomed to complain about the next?