Being cynical is something that on more than one occasion I have been accused of and I admit guilt. My bias is not completely without merit. If I had grown up in one small bubble my whole life I would understand that maybe I could see all the happy stuff that happens in this world. My parents actually did a great job of keeping me grounded and seeing only what they wanted me to see. Meeting me today most cannot believe that my parents were incredibly strict with the media that we ingested and the music we were allowed to hear. Yet, when I started spreading my wings my goal was to see it all and although I have not been able to do that as of now, I will continue to try until my dying day.
Being an educator you see how families truly believe by what their children espouse to you in class. You also see the work ethics that parents have instilled in their offspring. Working in four different states in very different environments has shown me a small snapshot of what America has become. Here is where the cynicism shows bright and true. There are things that kids are doing right, but many are buying into the ideas and hype that America is selling them. Mainly it is the gatekeepers disseminating the information they want us to see and do not show us what will keep us from truly being concerned with what they are doing with our society. I have very few students that want to work and produce something of substance. The pulse of the society that I encounter everyday trends toward being rich and famous, but without any talent or hard work.
We have an almost epidemic of people wanting to be famous for no other reason than attention. Now I know that narcissism and vanity are two very old vices and most societies throughout history have had their battles with these self-centered behaviors. With the introduction of the forward facing camera we have brought this on our selves and we will reap the crop we have planted.
Instagram is the best example of our fascination with ourselves. I for one think that this bit of social media is brilliant for a couple of reasons. First, it is a forum that I get to look at pictures and that makes me happy. I love photography and am truly amazed at what we capture and record for the world to see and with this new technology we have that capability. Second, you need very little writing accompanying your picture. This goes back to the old adage that a picture speaks a thousand words and it is true. Third, it helps make somewhat mundane pictures look better by putting them through a filter. Now this does not excuse the fact that people still take bad pictures. Truly great photographs are pieces of art that take skill and a keen eye, but with the technology of digital photography we have a lot more practice with what looks good and how to frame shots. So overall digital photography has brought us a high quality of photos. Fourth, I enjoy that you can hash tag (#) a topic and it will be grouped with other photos involving that activity. Some of my favorites are #funwithmyboys, #instagrambham, #blackandwhite & almost anything where my friends have a great idea for their events such as a wedding or snow days. Being able to look at pictures with similarities is great and really get me excited about looking at what ideas people have created from their cameras. But, inevitably under almost every hashtag there are many many selfies! Now if you are alive in our society today you know what they word is and if you are me your skin crawls almost every time you hear it. For those not in the know, it is a picture of yourself for the world to see. I ask my students on a regular basis if their picture on their lock screen is of them and about 75% say yes! Why are we so obsessed with ourselves? I do not think of it as just a kid or teenager thing, it has permeated most age ranges in society. It is almost as if we are worried about being forgotten. In my opinion, I think most of those people will be, even though they are trying very hard to leave some kind of mark on this reality.
My personal viewpoint with social media is to use it as a lens as to what I see from my standpoint, not from the aspect of 2 1/2 feet from my face looking right at me. I use social media, I refuse to let it use me. But most people that I watch today are trying to achieve some level of fame through no effect. They dress in expensive clothes when they are having problems paying rent. They drive $40,000 cars when they make $10/hour at a job that put very little effort. They act as if the world owes them something, but they refuse to put in work to obtain that reward.
I know, I know, get the hell off your soapbox. Look at it for a minute and see what you think. We have become a society that has television shows about peoples lives that before the invention of moving picture would have most likely been part of a side show at most traveling carnivals. We pay, film, and watch people act like dancing monkeys for their 15 minutes (Oh Mr. Warhol, how you understood what everyone wanted). And my students think this is how you make it in society. They aspire to all these unrealistic goals and their parents get angry at you when you mention that their child needs to work a little harder. Actually work to succeed, how dare you tell me or my child to do such a thing. We will live how we want and you cannot tell us otherwise.
My wife and I are trying our hardest to raise our boys with the a good moral foundation that should help them through this life. We also believe in a strong work ethic because that was instilled in us from a young age by the parents that raised us, Thank you so much Mom, Dad, Izzy, and Papa- You did a damn good job and we thank you everyday for it! But, Emily and I watch everyday(both of us being teachers) parents make excuses for their children. Why they cannot do this or why they cannot do that instead of turning to the children themselves and have them work harder to achieve. I fear for when my generation grows old by the seeds we have planted. We will reap our rewards and when harvest comes we will get what we have sowed.