I don’t belong in my generation, and I’m OK with that

Oct. 5, 2015

Jonathan Toman
jtoman@uccs.edu

I have taken two selfies in my life. One was at the Gettysburg battle site, the other in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

Both were taken to prove I was there and only because no one else was around to take my photo.

In some ways, I don’t belong in this generation.

Strangely, I’m OK with that. And while I do find myself succumbing to social pressure, I am still fine with being on the other side of the divide. I’m OK with being a little old school.

Ours is a generation of bragging and self-promotion. When we aren’t posting about the “perfect” version of our lives on every form of social media, we are checking out everyone else’s social media to see if we are keeping pace.

We are in a constant mode of self-marketing, whether it is to potential employers, schools or just our friends. We have perfected the art of the not-so-humble brag.

In contrast, I hate talking about myself (I do catch the irony here). I already know everything that’s happening in my life, no need to hash that out again. What I don’t know is what’s going on in your life.

Our generation is tied to their phone. For many of us, the last thing we do before we sleep is the first thing we do when we wake up, we check our smartphones.

I’m not immune to this. I check Twitter to see the news or find a good chuckle to take my mind off the rigors of the day.

But I am also perfectly capable of functioning without my phone. My phone broke earlier this year – the kind of broken when it won’t turn on and is better as a paperweight.

And I was fine. Surprisingly, I made it through this tough time.

I borrowed phones and used land lines, in no rush to get a new phone. I was free, blissfully unattached to something we spend more time looking at and relating to than we do other people.

We are great at interacting through a medium – whether it be texting or a form of social media.

But we suck at face-to-face encounters.

When I meet people, I shake their hand. I look them in the eye and say “how are you?”

But as a general rule, our generation is awkward in person, even when we meet folks our age.

It could be a hug – no, wait, I don’t know them that well. It might be a high-five, but that’s too impersonal. Often, we end up with something in between, and then we stand there, out of things to say in person because we’ve used up all our words on social media.

Ours is a generation that has the attention span of a goldfish.

Again, I’m not immune; I hate it when technology doesn’t do what it is supposed to. But I seem to have a surprising amount of patience compared to my peers.

We are a “now” generation, and if it doesn’t happen instantly, we give up or move on. But the best part of what you’re doing could be the process. The most rewarding thing might be the time spent in reaching whatever goal you have.

All of this makes me different, something that still elicits the occasional snide remark. I’ve been called Benjamin Button and an old soul.

But that’s OK.

Perhaps we have people that bleed across generational lines because we need them to help us relate to one another.

Perhaps we need them to recall the good we have accomplished, and the good still yet to come.