The world can be a complicated place. Now in my fifties, I often think this. I suppose we all do to some extent. It’s not thinking about ‘the good old days’ as such, but contemplating just how much our world has changed since I was born.
Quite a few things have happened when I think about it. I was born in the sixties, so bang smack in the middle of the sudden cultural changes in what were commonly known as ‘western nations.’ Sexual and racial taboos were challenged in that decade and all kinds of things changed irrevocably.
In Australia, decimal currency arrived in 1966, which eventually led to the metric system being adopted wholesale – yards and inches gave way to metres and centimetres, and miles gave way to kilometres. My parents grew up with the imperial system, while I grew up with the metric system.
Man went into space, and then to the moon. Politicians were assassinated. The Vietnam War was in progress, and continued into the seventies, while the Cold War raged. Communism was a looming presence in Eastern Europe and South East Asia. We were thrilled by stories of people escaping over the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Aeroplane hijackings seemed to be a regular news event – with the hijackings done by groups such as the PFLP, the Japanese Red Army and various others, and the world was horrified during the Munich Olympics when eleven members of the Israeli team, and a German Police Officer were killed by Black September.
All of that happened at a remove, somehow though. Despite real time communication occurring, most of us really only saw all the nastiness through the lens of the newspaper, the radio or the television.
I remember when computers came into schools in the 1970s, and when we were allowed to use calculators as well as tables books in mathematics exams. This might seem like a tiny thing, but in reality, it heralded the digital revolution. In those days, telephones were dialled (by using a dial) and the handset was firmly attached to the base by a cord. Very modern families had really long cords so you could take the telephone into another room – and some even had two telephones!
By the time I was at university in the eighties, libraries had microfiche and photocopiers, for which we hoarded five cent pieces. My major project in third year, had even been typed into a friend’s computer, and stored on a hard drive – which was a cassette tape.
Music had moved from records to cassettes, and in the nineties or late eighties, the compact disc arrived as did cordless phones, followed shortly thereafter by mobile phones. The first of those were huge – commonly known as bricks – and were objects of intense interest. Computers were becoming commonplace by the nineties, and then the internet arrived.
I’ve often marvelled at how fast we’ve become used to all of those things. I mean, I had a calculator as a teenager. That was pretty amazing, particularly once you’d learnt how to make it spell words using the numbers, which was a clever, nerdy, party trick. Now I have a nice little iPhone, and I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro, sitting here with my feet up while connected to the internet.
Any second I could be chatting to family or friends, who are scattered all over Australia and indeed the world. I could buy a book, and download it instantly to my Kindle, or the app on my phone, or pick up a new music track made by someone in another country and listen to it immediately.
I knew about the tragedy in Spain almost as soon as it happened, and every few minutes, I hear that another Australian politician might not be able to continue in politics because they’re a dual citizen of another country, even though they didn’t know it. (Look here to read the story.)
But what I often think about is that our kids have a heck of a lot more to deal with than we did. The whole interconnected thing means that blissful ignorance until the news comes on doesn’t happen anymore.
You could be surfing the web, and see a terrorist attack unfold before your eyes. You can sit with someone through illness and fear without ever meeting them face to face. You can be bombarded with unrealistic images from dawn to dusk, and never see a real one.
We’re exposed to so much more, and we have so many opportunities, yet the cost of those opportunities may well be our perceptions of what is actually reality.
Reality is definitely those raw images of terror, yet at the same time, that fear is brought into our very homes by the simple act of being so connected.
Unreality is the posed, brushed and shopped images so often popped up on social media platforms.
The very complex interplay of such things makes me wonder how our young adults of today really deal with real life. It also leads me to wonder if somehow we’re damaging our children and young adults because of these things.
I mean, how do you sort reality from fact amongst the airbrushed perfection of social media portrayal? And how do you protect your children from hideous violence when it streams directly into our homes twenty four hours per day?
I don’t want to dismiss the great things brought by technology or innovation at all, but sometimes I wonder how we manage responsible usage, or how we cope with all the stuff that comes with it. Let’s face it – without modern technology, I wouldn’t have a platform on which to pontificate as I’m currently doing.
It seems there’s much to think on.
In the meantime, I think I’ll go and look at cute cat pictures, which is one of the nicer things on the internet. Or perhaps I’ll browse a recipe site, or check out a few journal articles, or perhaps watch some Netflix, or…..