Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Drama At The Speed of Light

Teen drama. Remember it? Of course you do. If you’re like most of us, no matter how old or young you might be, there’s more than enough teen drama still ┬árolling around in your life. There’s very little of it in the White house right now (knock on wood), but I had an interesting conversation about this in the office with some grandparents talking about watching their teen grandkids being raised. We all had it, the drama, and so did they, but they were pretty distressed by what they’ve been watching in the homes of their grandchildren. It seems to be a universal observation that teen drama is of a greater magnitude now. Why is that?

If you are of a certain age (like me) you communicated with your friends by telephone. You know, the one on the wall in the kitchen, typically the only one in the house, the one that you shared with everyone else in your family. I know, I know…those of you NOT of a certain age have only seen this on “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs on Family TV, but it was really like that. One telephone with a rotary dial, no call-waiting and no voicemail. Maybe there was a Texas Instruments calculator the size of a toaster in your Dad’s office, and somewhere in the house you had a manual typewriter with a worn-out ribbon. The only computers in existence lived at the Pentagon and GM; you certainly didn’t have one at home. Cell phones? Please. You couldn’t even spell “cell” on your 10th grade biology test.

Your teen drama took place primarily face-to-face in school, or transpired one-on-one on the phone at night. You had a limit to how long you could talk (your stinky brother wanted the phone), and the “phone game” of a story growing and evolving with each transmittal was the real deal because, well, there was only one call at a time. You learned to deal with your drama face-to-face because you actually stood in front of someone and talked to them. This wasn’t all good, of course. I seem to remember many more real, honest to goodness fights, boys and girls, in my high school days. Teen drama was like a slow moving train heading toward disaster.

Fast forward to 2010. Verrry fast forward. Teen drama, whether it’s a bunch of teenagers, a bunch of Crossfitters, or a bunch of workers at Google ┬áinvolved, is indeed a much more intense phenomenon. It hits harder and faster, and it spreads at the speed of light because it TRAVELS at the speed of light. Cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, Text…drama transmittal is now exponentially faster so drama growth is not linear but exponential as well. No longer is the “telephone game” played in a daisy chain of teenagers, each juicy nugget of incendiary chat passed along from one combatant to the next like so many buckets of flaming kerosene. Nope, now it’s 5, 10, dozens of drama queens all in the arena with flame throwers lit firing away in all directions (have you noticed how “drama queen” is no longer gender specific?).

Teachable moment? Eh, I dunno. I guess if you are a parent or grandparent it helps to understand why it is that your teen and young adult kids seem to be hit so much harder and so much faster when the same stuff you experienced hits them. Remembering how much slower everything developed when we were teenagers probably shows us the proper intervention: hit the brakes. Time out. Unplug. Yes, this is how our kids communicate now, but not a one of them will be irreparably harmed if we disconnect them for just a bit. Let the roaring flames die down.

As an adult exposed to your OWN drama, though, I do think this knowledge should give you pause, encourage you to actually pause when in the midst of this kind of thing. No one is going to unplug you. You may actually be required to stay plugged in order to remain employed. But the multiplier effect of modern means of massed communication, everyone in and on at the same time, explodes our adult versions of teen drama at the same exponential rates. Hit the brakes; downshift. Compose YOURSELF before you do any composing.

Because you can’t un-ring a bell, and when you ring that bell in 2010 the sound travels at the speed of light. Whatever tune you tone rings forever in the vast electronic symphony hall. Teach your teens, but don’t forget yourself.

You’re a big kid now; slow it down.

One Response to “Drama At The Speed of Light”

  1. March 4th, 2010 at 7:23 am

    chris says:

    times they are a changing but the speed of the change is the alarming thing. im in my 30’s and my 2 yr olds world will be so much different than how mine was. internet is really only 10 years old and has changed the world as we know. that said, either we change with it or get left behind; just ask the newspaper and phonebook businesses.

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