Social Media Shock ‘N Awe

Are the streets scarier today, or is it based on perception?

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Ginger Effect’s “Changing Childhood” post today.  Not only does this loosely fit my main purpose of blogging – that is, wax nostalgia about the past from a Generation X point of view while simultaneously giving assessments of modern technology, events, entertainment, etc. But it also resonates for me, as a father of two pre-school boys, and the anxiety about the current and future world they will inherit.

It’s difficult not to be wary of what feels like never-ending conflict and threats, both in physical and now in ‘cyber’ form. When the day comes where I release my boys and their bikes into the wilderness of suburban streets and playgrounds, it’ll be challenging not to face mental images of predators lurking in shadows, kidnappers in big white vans, drunk or texting drivers, and so on.

Like Erica, I recall the 80s when kids seemed to have freer roam of the streets and woods, and share those similar concerns about the ‘nowadays’ environment.

When I was a kid, the second I got home from school, I was gone until dark, or I heard my mom call my name. I grew up with a fantastic group of neighbor kids. We spent every opportunity going on imaginary adventures in the woods, building questionably stable forts, riding our bikes to the store, and climbing every tree we could find. All under the supervision of each other.

[…]

Any and all of this now would have every mom-shamming group egging your house for being such an irresponsible parent. Our kids will never get to experience the freedom of childhood like we did, it’s just not safe anymore and that’s heartbreaking. Those years are where I always go to when someone asks me about one of my happiest memories.

But then I consider the smartphone and the little Facebook ‘F’ logo and that Twitter birdie icon.  I think about 24/7 cable news television and their loud talking heads, and the fact that so many restaurants and waiting rooms now have these televisions nestled up on ceiling corners towering over us.  I ponder the Internet as a whole, with each media source – from the major players down to the po-dunk opinion sites – begging for our clicks with in-yer-face blaring headlines.

{Shoot, we’ve always had “polar vortexes” and “bombogenesis cyclones.”  Those are meteorological terms that have existed for decades. But they sound cool and scary, so why not throw them into headlines and get a few more clicks? But I digress}

So then I wonder: Are neighborhoods really more creepy and dangerous today than 2-3 decades ago?  Or, rather, are we bombarded with so much constant bad (and sensationalized) news in the palms of our hand, that we are slowly becoming conditioned that crime is up and we are one step away from being a click-bait headline of our own?  Perhaps reality is that the ol’ neighborhood is no more dangerous than 1987, it’s just that ignorance was bliss back then.  We only had the daily newspaper and 11 o’clock news delivering the seedy stories.

I’m not entirely sure.

I do believe social media’s semi anonymous insta-communication has a dark side that has contributed to an overall angrier society.  If you enjoy healthy discussion and respectful debate, you must feel slightly nauseous sifting through a newspaper comments section or, god forbid, a YouTube comment thread.

But has this resulted in an increase in criminal behavior that would put a scare in any parent who, in the past, would grant their children far more roam-in-nature privileges?   And think about it… in those days, if your kid needed urgent help, they’d have to find a pay phone or bang on a random neighbor’s door.  No cell phones in their pockets with a direct line to mom and dad.

In summary, I’ve found myself feeling more unease about the world around us, how people communicate with each other, and the seemingly growing lack of decorum and common courtesy, from the White House down to the road ragin’ driver in the Ram pickup. But aside from the aforementioned drivers who now have little entertainment systems to check when hauling down a street, I’m not entirely sure the sheer numbers of predators, kidnappers, and the like, have increased in tandem.

But I can’t help it.  I’ll still be some bundle of nerves.

Alan Morley

 

 

Author: Alan Morley

A GenXer in his 40s blogging out of Rochester MI. A history buff (love them time travel stories), travel-phile, husband, father, and a fan of britpop, triphop and shoegaze.

One thought on “Social Media Shock ‘N Awe”

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