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Missing the Wondering - Generation Z Stands a World Away

Many Generation X folks like myself totally realize how much social media impacts kids and teens growing up today – and how very different our lives would have been if we had it “back then.” For the most part, we are grateful we did not.

We lived in the moment, and now we can appreciate that. Sure, our high school years didn’t have the conveniences of today. We literally could not go out to dinner with our parents on a Saturday night without worrying about missing a phone call to coordinate the night’s plans with our friends. (And coordinate down to a tee we did, from the driver to the pick-up order: “I’ll pick you up at 8:25, Jenny at 8:30, Suzy at 8:35…) We had to know exactly where the party was and who would be there when.

We showed up to school wearing a new pair of shoes or sweater, without having vetted it on social media during the shopping process, or having had friends vote on options via Facetime just before checking out.

We lived with wonder. We took our chances. We didn’t really have any other way.

I couldn’t necessarily put my finger on it until today, when I read The Death of Mystery, by Carrie Manner. “We know what everyone is doing as they’re doing it, where they’re doing it and who they’re with,” she says about the world today. “We know what people are thinking in real-time, and in short, we’re eliminating all need to wonder.”

And I agree with what I think is her main point. “That’s what I miss most: the wondering.”

I wrote about this, in a way, in Anticipation, a piece last year for the Huffington Post. How, unlike Gen Xers before them, today’s tweens and teens are not waiting for much of anything – and that makes me sort of sad.

I feel old even saying the words “Kids today…” but I must. I see how some have no sense of anticipation or wonder. Their risks are different, and many seem less willing to tolerate risk. I think they love it this way, but you know what? They don’t know any other way, either, because they don’t know life without social media and never will.

Still, I worry they won’t experience enough risk to prepare them for the lifetime of the big unknowns and adversities ahead. We may not have loved learning patience, growing up in the seventies and eighties, but we did.

Generation Z kids like mine seem to be surviving in today’s wonder-less world just fine, though. They probably feel sad for us, Generation X, because we did have to wonder so much! We may never know who really had it “better,” but I wouldn’t trade our generation’s experience for anything. There’s something to be said for a sense of wonder. Right?

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