How has life changed since thirty or forty years ago when I was young? Generally, it does not feel that different to me. Cars are basically the same, houses are basically the same.
In my opinion, there are two things that have changed life, more specifically, family life, more than anything else. The first item is wealth. Automation in the workplace and transportation of goods has allowed us to produce more. Most of us, but certainly not all, are far wealthier than generations preceding us. However, we humans tend to not notice this as we simply adapt to our present situation and then that becomes the new norm. Let’s face it, most of us live like royalty compared to many generations ago. Another human trait is that we constantly compare ourselves to others. No matter how much we have, we feel poor if everyone around us has much more. When my parents were starting a family, they lived in a tiny house and shared a single inexpensive car. The Great Depression and second World War were defining moments in their formative years. They did not feel, and were not, poor at all as they had what they needed and the people around them did not have more. Today, it would be judged as poverty.
I believe that the second thing that is changing how we live or who we are more than anything else are smart phones and the internet. When I was younger, the family shared one small television set. The family also shared one large stationary rotary telephone. It was understood that us kids could not simply pick up the phone to make a call. We had to ask mom or dad if we could call so and so. The answer was almost always yes, but you had to ask. Despite being shared by a family of six, the phone was not in use very much. I suppose that younger people might find all this rather archaic and frightening. It did have a tremendous benefit that present day family life has mostly lost touch with. We were stuck with each other! The benefit was social connection, social skills and the lesson that there are certain things that you just must learn to deal with, there was no escape. With a smartphone in every child’s pocket, the child always has an escape or distraction from the social situation at hand. Before, if you were board or craving interaction, the only remedy was to start, or engage in a conversation. It is now possible to skip that. Now, people often are not completely engaged with the people that they are with. I also find that smartphones tend to set a minimum standard for the interest of a conversation. Once the conversation starts to get boring, people disappear into their phones. It used to be that when the conversation started to lag, you would have to think of ways to pick it up again. Friendships are more numerous now, but tend to be shallower. Reading and typing comments on a computer screen is not the same as social skills.
Before you think that I am too uppity, in the less than one year that I have had a smartphone, I now use the heck out of it….. “Ya, I’m listening, what did you just say?”
I heard it somewhere but I can’t find who to quote, “most every problem starts its life as a solution”.
A related and interesting question to ask is, in which generation has basic human life changed the most? My vote would be that of my grandparents, born just before 1900.