I remember it clearly: the day I realized how different my peers and I were from “the new generation,” the day I realized that those younger than me were experiencing the world much different than the one I’d known growing up.
I was in a local bakery with my then-boyfriend after a long day at school (ah, high school). We were waiting at the counter for our usual order and couldn’t help but notice a spectacle in our general vicinity: a few feet away, a toddler no more than two years old sat quietly, stubby fingers wrapped around an iPhone, her round eyes fixated on a glowing screen.
“That’s sad,” my boyfriend remarked with an eye roll before turning away. Being the impressionable teen that I was, I readily agreed with him. But looking back, I have to question why we reacted the way we did.
For one, we were sixteen and didn’t really have enough life experience between us to judge any parent for letting their baby play with a smartphone. But something I find even more peculiar about this memory is the fact that we even noticed it at all.
These days, a baby on a smartphone is nothing out of the ordinary — sometimes it’s cute; at most it warrants a comment about “kids these days!!” and their untapped potential. But for the most part, sights such as these aren’t something we question or scoff at; they’ve become the norm. And as technology has become even more integrated into our lives, we’ve accepted that the new generation will have certain advantages and perspectives we didn’t have as kids.
While it’s easy to be jealous of preteens with a million Youtube followers, or 12-year-old app programmers, or your little cousin who has an iPhone 6S, we shouldn’t feel threatened by the new generation or how their accomplishments might overshadow our own.
Ten to fifteen years ago, we were just like them: just kids, enjoying all that Internet Explorer had to offer, watching cable TV and frequently being subjected to Sims-related lectures from our parents. We took the technological opportunities we were given and ran with them, just like our parents did, pre-computer (OMG); just like our kids will do in the future when hoverboards are finally a thing.
When my high school boyfriend and I scoffed at the toddler with the iPhone, it was our way of expressing our concern for the future of society. What I didn’t realize then was that at some point, each generation has observed the next with a degree of skepticism. This is natural, and at times, necessary. But the fact that this phenomenon exists just proves that we’re making things happen. And worrying about if we’re falling behind, or how the next generation might surpass ours in accomplishments, is not helpful.
We should be able to appreciate societal changes and marvel in the apparent differences between us and succeeding generations because we know that we, in some way, helped take the world there. That’s not something to be afraid of. It’s something to be proud of.