Bored with the whole thing
My 13-year-old girl is mortified to discover my wife and I have both gotten myspace.com pages. This, she truly believes, is her domain, and she acted as if we’d both showed up for tryouts for the middle school cheerleading squad.
The reality is my wife, Jen, signed up for the sole reason of being able to monitor our daughter Kaylie’s page; I got one because some group I was interested in had all their info on myspace.com. It’s not like I plan to spend hours each day on there, toying with the wallpaper, uploading videos shot in the backyard or making “e-friends” around the world.
But this, I’ve discovered, is what occupies a lot of Kaylie’s time. Looking at her myspace.com page finally gave me the answer to my ongoing question: “What the heck are you doing in your room all the time with the door closed?”
I know girls have been doing this forever, and I don’t know what the time killer was before myspace.com, instant messaging and e-mail. The distraction, I suppose, is irrelevant because it all relates to the same odd phenomenon: Teenagers, who are arguably going through the most exciting and challenging time of their lives, are tremendously bored by the whole thing ” so bored, in fact, that they’ll spend hours peering into a computer screen changing their desktop wallpaper from purple flowers to red hearts to orange unicorns and back again.
When I was a kid (groan!), we had one measly TV with no remote and no cable until the late ’70s. In our home today, we have half a dozen computers, three TVs, Game Boys, Playstations, a trampoline and enough sports gear in the garage to start our own consignment shop. Judging from the looks on the teen faces most times, though, you’d think we were living in a cardboard box in the middle of Utah, where all they had to play with were rocks, sticks and vinegaroons.
The L.A. Times had a great story last week documenting this phenomenon. They did a poll of people between ages 12 and 24 and discovered a large majority of them are simply bored with their entertainment choices. So these are people who can e-mail a friend in Kurdistan while they’re watching “Spider-Man 2” on their iPod and talking on a cell phone to another friend in Winnipeg while they’re riding a chairlift in Vail. If that’s not enough excitement, what does it take for these kids? A thousand naked MTV reality-show stars jumping from rocket ships while the Red Hot Chili Peppers play at the landing zone and volcanoes erupt in the background as Jesus pops in for the Second Coming? Then they wouldn’t be satisfied unless they could download the whole episode off iTunes.
My 5-year-old is still happy playing with ants or looking under the welcome mat for worms. These older kids, I don’t know. I guess I was bored at times when I was a teenager, and that old adage about the devil having work for me and my idle hands was too often true. If claims of boredom equate to an absence of wicked behavior, perhaps it’s a good thing. Even so, the trend looks to me like the creation of an entire generation of media consumers who aren’t curious or passionate enough to create their own stuff. If that’s the case, who’s going to be creating the art of the future? And is this why so many hip-hop “artists” spice up the same ol’ crap by sampling better songs from the era before iPods and cell phones?
I think there’s something to be said for making do with less-extensive entertainment options, as the Pilgrims did. When all you’ve got is a length of string and the leg bone of a hamster, you can get pretty creative when there’s nothing else to do. On the other hand, if all of the jobs of the future revolve around the electronic circulation of the same ol’ crap, maybe our kids are on a brilliant career path.
Only time will tell.
Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.