A pre-millenial tale

Act 2, Scene 25, Take 2.

I repeat. “You need to spend less time playing video games. If you have time after studies and school work, try and do something else, physical activity for instance. Or, read a book”.

He looks at me with a blank face and says calmly, “But, what’s the difference between reading a book and video games? Both keep me hooked. Both take me away from the immediate world around me. How is a book better than a video game?”

I struggle with that question. He has hit me at the right spot. I have this weakness for alternate views. That is the prime reason why I keep quiet in meetings. As I hear someone coming up with a non-traditional view or a view opposing mine, I usually pause to consider that. My response might often come delayed as I am focusing on opening up to the possibility of the alternate view rather than defending mine.

So, I mumble. I say something about how video games and computers are more addictive all the while recounting the days when my mother used to get frustrated with me because I read books. All the time. I am also wishing my son was younger and I could triumphantly say, “Because I said so” and walk away from the scene. However I manage to close the argument for that day without looking too stupid as he agrees to stop playing them; at least until the exams are over. And I walk away thinking hard.

Newspaper cell phone

One week goes and I am wiser. I think I have finally hit the nail on this question that makes the millenials look so clever. I have finally identified my unease and have given it a shape and form. Now I can say confidently why I want my kids off computers and mobile phones.

I have to mention here that I do admire Mrs V, who nonchalantly embraces her kids’ browsing and gaming requirements and sends them to gaming contests and gets them 250 GB wi-fi data every month. I seriously do. I also think she has somehow found the magic potion as her kids are also consistent A-graders and some of the most well behaved and accomplished kids. I am not Mrs V and my kids have, well, just, different skills, so I will stick to my conservative guns and justify why I want less screen time for my kids.

#1 Instant gratification

Remember when the term “browsing” came into our lingo? Yes, with the advent of Internet. Instead of focus and going deep we started browsing and the articles got shorter and shorter until Twitter invented the 140 character limit. All these mediums are tethered on the promise of satisfaction, one click away; satisfaction that feels instant and can go away as quickly as it came into being. On one hand, this limits our need to get curious and go deeper.¬†Instead we hop from article to article, app to app and experience to experience.

#2 Access

This is the killer ingredient. Pause here for a moment and think about what went into publishing a book and making it available in a book store near you in the pre-computer era. Thinking, researching, typing, meticulous proof reading and finally printing and distribution. Print media is so cumbersome that only those (ok, mostly those) who really had to say something took the pains to say it and make a book out of it. This means that the pages that kept you hooked had some thought and effort preceding them. But with Internet and digital media, anybody with access to a computer and free time (ahem.. this is self-implicating) can write stuff and make it accessible via a simple Google search! BTW, did you hear that Obama was arrested earlier in the day for tapping into Trump’s phone? Yes. That. And things much more worse. The possibility of stumbling into something not authentic. Post-truth. And tethered to the kick on instant gratification. Heady concoction.

Think about it – your time is available to anyone with access to a computer. Books had to earn it. They had to conceived. Published. Make it to a store near you. Entice you enough to get out and go look for it. Spend money to buy one. Or borrow. Books had to compete and yearn for your attention.

Books came with a last page. When you reached it, you closed it and returned back to mundane routine of wake, eat, sleep. Ah, that empty space we all floated in after we finished reading an enthralling book…

And that’s how my son, books are better than computers and video games and 9gag.

 

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