Last summer my daughter Maria and I attended the wedding of my niece, who is also my godchild. It was the first time that I had seen my extended family since my mother’s funeral, nearly two years ago. A reunion of celebration instead of grief was welcome indeed.
I spent a good bit of this time with my nephew Brad and his girlfriend Jill. They are both in their mid-twenties. Brad is the one that everyone says resembles me in my youth; he is a seeker, a reader, and a bohemian. This resemblance has extended to the physical as he has grown his hair out; it is blonde, and while not as curly as mine, definitely wavy. He is currently pursuing a Master’s program in organic farming at Michigan State (the resemblance does not extend to my academic sloth).
The wedding was lovely, and the reception, in a church hall, began alright, but as the evening progressed the music deteriorated as the DJ played more rap and hip hop and the dancing became cruder. Brad and I had noticed that there was a meeting of the Flint Banjo Society in one of the other buildings at the church, so he and Jill and and Maria and I spent a good bit of time there, only occasionally checking in at the reception. The banjo music was excellent.
I thoroughly enjoyed the company of Brad and Jill, whom I was meeting for the first time, and it was only later that I realized that at no point in the hours we spent together did either of them check their cell phone, or text anyone. I don’t remember the last time I was with anyone under forty that this had happened. Maybe it was their intuitive sense of the here and now -Jill also is an organic farmer- but it was certainly refreshing.
Which brings me to the video above, which has been seen over 36 million times. It is, perhaps, the first stirring of a major shift in the culture.
I have been saying for some time that there will be a rejection of most modern technology by many young people, one that will amount to a major cultural movement.
This seems counterintuitive. Young people in fact seem glued to their various devices, always staring at screens, always tapping at tiny keyboards.
But if you think about it a reaction seems inevitable. It is in the nature of youth to question and criticize, to seek authenticity. For those to whom the digital “revolution” is a novelty the new devices are exciting and addicting. But what about the generation for whom this technology is a given, whose parents, say, spend so much time in their onscreen world that they seem to ignore their children? Does not a reaction by said children seem inevitable?
I predict that there will be a major youth movement that rediscovers reality, unchannelled by electricity.
Young people are by nature critical of the world into which they are born. And they are naturally rebellious. Does it not seem likely that many will turn the critical eye of youth to the technological bubble in which they find themselves enclosed?
I believe that this revolution will come. Young people will toss out their cell phones, reject the computer, will write letters in longhand, with fountain pens, ride bicycles, read books, dig in the earth. They will leave the technological world behind, live in teepees and cabins, heating with wood, lighting with candles. The rediscovery of reality unmitigated by the electronic world will be startling and invigorating. The smell and touch and taste of earth, of woodsmoke, of life, will be intoxicating. People will speak of rebirth, of awakening.
Like any youth movement, it will have its radicals, and there no doubt will be a minority who commit violence. And like any youth movement there will no doubt be a strong sexual component to this rediscovery of the natural world.
That is just inevitable, but will be used by critics to dismiss the whole thing. But these inescapable elements should not obscure the value in the rediscovery of humanity that criticism of technology will entail.
Oh, and the motto of the coming movement?
May I suggest “Turn off, tune out, drop in”?
And yes, the irony of speculating about this online is not lost on me….