A Generation in Search of a Crisis
Without crisis or conflict through which and individual can form a self narrative, feelings of inadequacy and boredom arise. Considering we had the largest terrorist attack in US history, two simultaneous wars, and the largest economic downturn since the great depression this generation they should have latched on to one of the four for meaning but alas, 9/11 never had wide spread personal effect on the US in any but sentimental terms, we took 5,737 combat casualties over 12 years, and due to an effective and well run federal reserve system avoided the destruction of our financial system with no more unemployment than we can handle. The creation of a self narrative gives and individual purpose and a set of decision criteria by which they can form an accomplish personal goals. Without goals the boredom and feelings of meaninglessness increase in an individual driving him/her toward distraction through various means of escapism.
- Sex: The oldest of the popular distractions, sex and sexual orgasm provide for the human body neuromuscular euphoria the pursuit of which can distract a human mind indefinitely. In modern context, the search for sex serves for many as the primary decision criteria governing their goals and actions. In addition, feelings of affection toward a sexual partner often lead one or both of the individuals to the illusion that their lives resemble the narrative structure of a Katherine Heigel romantic comedy with all accompanying statistical improbabilities.
- Alcohol and Other Recreational Drugs: Often used in the pursuit of sex or in the failure of said pursuit, these substances mask anxiety, boredom, and feelings of meaninglessness by temporarily lowering the brain’s analytic ability. Without such analytic ability, the brain fails to register more troubling abstract thoughts providing much needed respite to the would be manic-depressive.
- Television: Of all the distractions available to the modern consumer, television is the most prolific, ubiquitous, and likely destructive. The TV crosses all social, political, and economic boundaries to make all viewers of any type blankly stare at a glowing slab of electronics. It’s actually quite democratic in that way. The distractive ability of television is even more effective when done in conjunction with eating because it simulates fulfillment.
- Social Networking Sites: While the internet provides fast and simple access to collective human knowledge, it also houses sites that found a way to quantify social acceptance. The user is in a constant search to increase the brute number of social interactions. In pursuit of this goal the user amasses a list of every acquaintance possible so that they can be constantly reminded that their peers appreciate any inane chatter the user deems worthy to share. The feeling of importance is, of course, also an illusion because the majority of people conversed with in this context never transfer to meaningful interpersonal relationships in reality. Social networking sites are then probably some of the most elaborate distractions in the modern era and in many ways a more effective substitute for television because of the added semi-active component.
- Video Games: Video games are in effect a substitute for actual goals and for real life by providing a simulated conflict to the player who must then achieve certain sub-objectives in pursuit of the final goal. The format provides(in most cases) an end goal to the player with minimal or no player thought required. The methods of achieving said goal are also premeditated by the designer to ensure that player success is not only possible but likely. The difficulty of achieving said goals is malleable and can be set according to the player’s will. While imperfect and still a distraction, video games provide far more real world benefit than television and most other forms of traditional media apart from books.
- Smartphones: The iPhone was the first device to seamlessly integrate television, social networking, and video games into one highly portable device. Before smartphones, in order to access the above without constant wired connection required either a dedicated and often cumbersome device that vaguely simulated the wired counterpart. With the current ubiquity of smartphones ,however, any consumer in nearly any location in the modernized world is never more than a click or swipe away from complete sensory immersion allowing them like never before to completely block the worry, boredom and fear deriving from their absent personal narritive.
Note: I would have included in this list ‘pursuit of money’ but money itself is not a distraction but rather a means to sustain insatiable hedonism.