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iFear: Cell Phones & Social Media in a Brave New Era

Image result for social media danger

Becky Mansfield over at Your Modern Family wrote a somewhat chilling piece on the extent to which cell phones and social media have altered a generation – in the not-so-good ways every parent fears – called “The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids.”

Reporting on empirical data presented through a number of mediums, notably Dr. Jean Twenge’s research and the findings she presented in her recent book, iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us., Ms. Mansfield helps break down some alarming information in an easily digestible, if uncomfortable, way.

Without mincing words, Dr. Twenge has found that spikes began occurring in teen/tween angst, depression, anxiety, ADHD, sleeplessness and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide in 2012, the same year the first iPhone was released. Since then, the numbers are getting worse, not better. Here’s a summary per the above article of a few related stats:

1 in 5 children has mental health problems

The article does offer coping strategies to parents, but if we as adults have a somewhat unhealthy relationship with all these new gadgets, one can only imagine how hard it is for younger people to navigate these waters without a considerable amount of difficulty. This is doubly true when it comes to bullying. Imagine having your least desirable enemies armed with the ability to follow you remotely to your bedroom through social media on a daily basis. Where does someone’s “safe place” become in an age when we are always connected?

As if anyone needs more proof of how serious this problem is, the article from the NYT I wrote about from October 11, 2017 (@simonwilliam: “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety“) is still on the website’s most popular emailed stories – 11 days after it went up, a longevity I’ve not seen before on that site’s page.

Ultimately, the onus lies on us, as parents and adults and mentors and teachers, to lead by example. But that’s easier said than done. High-tech gizmos aren’t going anywhere, and the world is only becoming more interdependent. Suddenly those fears our grandparents had that our parents’ minds were being poisoned by the gyrations of Elvis Presley and the absolute lack of decorum that the Beatles displayed (with shaggy hair!)seem like such Leave It to Beaver-like problems now.


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Gord Downie: Quote of the Day


“Poetry is a voice that characterizes a nation. We should become a nation of poets rather than America-hater. It’s certainly more interesting.”

— Gord Downie, Canada’s rock-poet laureate

Canada is a nation in mourning. Tributes and farewells and love letters will continue to pour in, but we will never have him again. He has returned to that eternal and ethereal place among the stars where the brightest among us shine in perpetuity.

For reasons so many of us contemplated on nights filled with loud music, excessive drinking and cloud-filled rooms, the Hip never made it big in the States like Alanis Morissette, Rush, Shania Twain, Justin Bieber, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne – the list goes on and on of Canadians who’ve made it mega-huge south of the border.

So why not The Tragically Hip? we asked on these now-fuzzy nights that memory has relegated to dark, hard-to-reach corners of our post-addled minds. How is there justice in this world if the Hip can’t be recognized for their talent and Gord Downie for his sheer brilliance?

That – not the current political climate – was all the proof we needed that something was awry not in Denmark, but across the 49th.

And then as we – and the Hip – grew older, we became more circumspect. We donned suits and ties, secured jobs and started families. We worried about mortgages and sicknesses. We quit smoking, drank less, and only smoked pot at get-togethers preceded by “10th” or “20th” or “25th.”

We didn’t listen to music as much. Hip album covers, which were once so reverentially  removed from the CD cover and read between friends, thick as thieves with this musical treatise in our hands, were bygone items replaced by screenshots and digital pics. We’d visit a website from time to time, read a thing or two about someone, but it wasn’t the same because we were alone when we did this. It just wasn’t the same as it used to be.

Today, so poetic that Gord has faded with the last of our season’s dying embers, we prepare for the cold, biting winds and relentless chill to the early mornings/late nights, and what feels like – to us Canadians, at least –  terminal darkness.

Or, as a contemporary of Gord Downie still sings so “full of grace”:

the winter here’s cold, and bitter

it’s chilled us to the bone

we haven’t seen the sun for weeks

too long too far from home

I feel just like I’m sinking

and I claw for solid ground

I’m pulled down by the undertow

I never thought I could feel so low

oh darkness I feel like letting go

But the darkness, of course, is not eternal. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it, and all. It will ebb and flow, and when we emerge on the other side, slightly worse for wear, we will still have him. That is our gift.

In short, Gord was right. We don’t need to be a nation of America-haters or begrudge their inability to venerate the Hip. We have them, all to ourselves, forevermore.

“The place of honor that Mr. Downie occupies in Canada’s national imagination has no parallel in the United States. Imagine Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe combined into one sensitive, oblique poet-philosopher, and you’re getting close.”

In the end, his poetry won out. That’s what we remember. That’s what we’ll take with us, as individuals and as a country, as we continue our journeys into the vast unknown, a place occupied by Wheat Kings and heavenly lyricists.

P.S. To read more of Gord Downie’s writing, check out Gord Downie Writing.

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