On the Good Old Days ...

So I came across this meme the other day and dozens of comments reminiscing on the old "Glory Days".  What became increasingly clear as I read the comments is that EVERYONE thought that their youth was the "best time to be alive" and that the current generation of youth had moved on from that particular social media site because it's full of old people being nostalgic.

The past 6 months of my life have been spent in the company of my children - 14 and 7.  We are no longer separated for work and school.  We coexist in the same space and I am very aware of the world they are living in.  One thing that has become clear to me is that the world they live in, one that is connected and enabled by technology, is clearly a better place to grow up than when I did in the cold war (and in Canada where I lived, a language war) era of 70s/80s, and far more than the post world-war, racial unrest world my parents lived in the 50s/60s.

Let's start with some of the social factors ... this is a much kinder world.  While far from perfect, the workforce has far more women, especially women in senior positions, compared to 30-40 years ago.  Girls grow up with far bigger aspirations, and far less limitations, than just becoming a "secretary" (a word we don't even use anymore).  My mother, with a degree in Engineering, was a stay at home wife to a working father with a High School education.  My wife and sisters are executives and business owners. My daughter has had a chance to participate in a "Technovation" program that raises awareness of job opportunities for women in STEM. While there is still a way to go toward equality, clearly the opportunities for women are far better and traditional gender roles are an idea of the past.

While we are in a period of social unrest, the gaps are closing.  I have no real frame of reference to speak about experience in the area of racial equality except as someone who was taught that there is a difference between people because of language and skin colour.  While I certainly wasn't taught fear or hatred, I was taught "difference" and that is damaging enough.  It takes years to undo that type of programming and I am glad that is not information being put in my children's heads.

There is far more awareness about bullying and (presumably) far less bullying.  Whereas I grew up not knowing anything other than daily bullying, both verbal and physical, my children, between them, can only recall 1 or 2 occasions, moments, where they felt bullied.  And if you were at all different, especially with respect to sexual orientation, you were outcast, stripped of opportunity and possibly physically assaulted - and this type of behavior isn't even that far behind us.  In the late 90s I worked as a door man in a club downstairs from a gay club - their doorman and I had to stop several fights on the street that were only because straight man fear and anger of a gay man, who was otherwise a stranger.  Shameful!

Technology is an amazing tool for education and socialization.  When I was in school, your friend group was limited to those people in your grade or home room and the peers you played sports with.  Even though she has changed schools, my daughter has maintained friendships from elementary school and through connections made through social media, she and her friends have been able to expand their group to include new people connected by interests rather than proximity.

My young son has taken up an interest in the video game Minecraft.  The technology he has access to allows for these type of games that inspire his creativity.  Further to that, he is able to research the game he enjoys playing.  Through social media and technology he is able to access instructional videos and expert advice.  He can research to a level of specificity and detail on any topic that is far deeper than anything I could find in the local library collection of Encyclopedia Britannica.  Even though the topic may not be one that will secure his future, the access to, and ability to collect information - and the skills to do so - is something that will serve him well as he pursues his education - and is a skillset I value as a hiring manager!

What I have observed by watching my children experience childhood in 2020 is that we, as grown ups, have no frame of reference to compare the current generation to ours.  The current generation has (almost) the entirety of human knowledge in the palm of their hands at all time.  Actual information, facts, diverse points of view, from experts and observers all over the world can be accessed and learned from free from the embedded bias of an authority - parent, teacher or other - that only knows a world exactly like your own.

In the ultimate irony, what we often cite as an example of the good old times is the ability to just "ride our bikes and go anywhere we wanted".  In reality,  this is something we have taken away from the current youth because of a fear of a world that is statistically far safer than the one we grew up in.  Somehow, we have decided that what would now be considered "negligent parenting" is something we should harken back to ... as if they would really want to do that given the connected technology options available.

Happiness is subjective. Relative happiness is something that cannot be measured from generation to generation.  However, objectively, today's youth are living in a kinder, gentler and more informed world.  Individual experiences will vary, but they did when I was young as well.  We should embrace change and seek to understand this new world so that we can properly support the current generation rather than fighting against progress by claiming that simpler times were somehow better.  This is just a stress that is not necessary now, or ever.

Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is only ignorance. Prove me wrong ...

#ignorance #changemanagement #progress #goodolddays