We are becoming a culture of fewer and fewer shared experiences. The kids of today have unprecedented amounts of choices their parents never had but I wonder if this doesn’t come with a cost… at least from a sociological perspective. As a “child of the 80’s,” let me explain.
Shared Experiences – 80’s Pop Culture and Media
We weren’t always a culture of few shared experiences. During my formative years, my peer groups were all familiar with the same trends, fashions, TV shows, and music preferences. What kid back then didn’t watch Happy Days? With only 3 TV networks and barely anyone having cable television, virtually everyone was glued to the same shows. When you went to school the day after a popular show, EVERYONE had seen it and it gave you a shared experience. Same with music and how we were force fed trends by record executives, radio stations, and MTV. It seemed like LITERALLY every 7-10 kids in my junior high owned Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Van Halen’s 1984 album. Not only would we watch and listen to the same forms of media when we were kids, we often consumed 80’s media TOGETHER.
Shared Experiences – Friends and Meeting New People
As adults, our shared experiences from when we grew up began to develop. Just recently my wife and I went out with a new, same-agish couple and we QUICKLY bonded over our shared experiences of our teen years, early adult years, and early marriage years. Sure, we had a great laugh over listening to Quiet Riot, going on Spring Break in Daytona Beach, watching Battle of the Network Stars, and other laughable “back then” trends, but these shared experiences helped us to relate very quickly to each other. Shared alikeness goes way beyond meeting new couples for drinks, it can go a long way in networking or advancing a career. Having multiple things to connect about creates a kinship and I wonder if “kids of today” are going to have it as easy as we did.
Few and Fewer Shared Experiences
What will my kids’ shared experiences be when they get older? Apple vs Android? That’s all I can think of. Younger people barely even watch TV nowadays, which isn’t a bad thing, but what are their shared experiences? Out of 400-600 channels of choices, what is the likelihood of finding a kid in your school interested in the same shows, sports, or movies? With over 5 billion videos being watched on YouTube every day (source), what are the odds kids are even seeing the same ones?
A Positive Spin
It’s hard to find fault with the endless array of choices kids have today to refine their personalities. Isn’t having more choices better? I’m sure I would have embraced opportunities back then to expand my musical horizons beyond Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 40. Also, perhaps the kids of today are opening up to far more diversity and individuality than my generation was. Maybe not being force fed pop culture from just a few sources is enriching them in ways we don’t understand yet.
I just wish they wouldn’t spend so much time on their damn phones!
I’m personally curious as to how my kids will interact with their peers as they move past high school and into adulthood responsibilities with fewer and fewer shared experiences to connect with their peers with.