The generation gap is obvious enough. For my parents’ generation, color television may have still been relatively new and the channel selection was certainly more limited. For my parents, it was a struggle to make a new life for themselves in Canada, whereas I’m firmly established and ensconced as a Canadian. When Adalynn showed up last month, it got me thinking that I’d be reliving some form of my own childhood all over again.
Except, this time, it would be completely different.
Digital Is Everywhere
When I was a kid, music was distributed largely on cassette tapes (though our home did have a record player and an 8-track stereo). For Adalynn, I feel like the concept of physical media will become increasingly foreign to her. Why would you buy a physical CD when you can stream a song through Spotify? Why would you buy a Blu-ray disc when you can watch it on Netflix? Why would you kill a tree for a paperback book when the Kindle e-book is right there.
Just about everything has gone digital. A friend of mine posted a Throwback Thursday photo of his trip to Europe just ten years ago and it’s clear he scanned a print he got from a roll of film. How did I know? It had the characteristic amber date stamp on the lower corner. Adalynn will never deal with film cameras or card catalogs at the library. It’s all digital.
Saving Pennies Makes No Cents
A penny certainly didn’t go very far during my childhood, as the cheapest piece of candy I could get from the corner store still cost five cents. For Adalynn, the penny is practically non-existent. As far as Canadian currency is concerned, the penny won’t really exist for her at all. It’ll exist as little more than a theoretical concept.
The Expectation of Instant Gratification
It would be unfair and inaccurate to describe me as a particularly patient person. However, the circumstances of my childhood were such that I had no choice but to wait for certain things. If I wanted to watch my favorite Saturday morning cartoons, by golly I had to wait until Saturday morning to do it. If I wanted the latest video game, I would have to take the time to make my way to a physical store, get the cartridge, and make my way back home.
The pace of Adalynn’s childhood, for better or for worse, is going to be inherently faster. If there’s a particular video she wants to watch, YouTube and other video services are literally there on demand. If she does indeed become a gamer, she can download new titles almost immediately through Xbox Live, Steam or whatever other service. Of course, the onus then falls on us as parents to teach the little one to wait… and I’m not sure I have the patience for that.
The Personal Is Public
As I’ve said so many times before and as I will continue to say many more times in the future, the Internet has been a wonderfully empowering vehicle. It has lowered the barrier to entry for the masses, allowing anyone to be heard and seen by everyone else. And therein lies a very sharp double-edged sword.
Even if you are not actively sharing content about yourself, as would be the case with Adalynn’s blog, other people can and will share information about you in a far more rapid manner than ever before. Everyone will know a lot more about Adalynn’s childhood than they would have known about my childhood.
A More Open Society
While Vancouver’s Chinese population was indeed sizable during my childhood (and it continues to be very large), I was still a victim of racism on multiple occasions. This kind of prejudice has not died–not by a long shot–but it has dramatically subsided. Yes, there is still a fight for equal rights for women. Yes, there is still a fight for racial equality. Yes, there is still a fight for the rights of the LGBT community.
But you know what? It’s getting better every day and kids of Adalynn’s generation will hopefully see the world and its diversity of people in a completely different way. And she’ll have far greater access to a variety of ethnic cuisines than I ever did too. If this video of kids reacting to the “controversial” Cheerios commercial is any indication, I think we’re in a good hands.