Have you interacted with young adults lately?
Even more pertinently, have you tried teaching them?
The trouble they have in paying attention can perhaps best be encapsulated by the trouble they have in not using their phones while watching a movie; what was once considered a mindless break from more challenging classwork, now feels unbearably slow and unstimulating compared to the barrage of 15-seconds-long, dopamine-hit-inducing clips on social media.
This is a sobering state of affairs.
It is, of course, a perennial trope to wring one’s hands about “kids today.”
But the kids today are actually not to blame.
It wasn’t kids who decided that children were incapable of spending ten minutes in a dentist’s waiting room without looking at Mommy’s phone, nor was it kids who decided it was impossibly tedious to get their teeth cleaned without another screen placed right above their faces. It wasn’t kids who decided that it was better to know you were left out while looking at TikTok, than to feel you were left out in not having it.
As the gatekeepers of their children’s tech, adults have and will determine their fate in a world that has both utterly changed, and stubbornly remained the same.
While technology has made so much of life easier, all that is best in it, all that leads to success — all relationship-building, conversation-making, craft-honing, and subject-mastering — still requires uninterrupted focus, persistent dedication, what Nietzsche called “a long obedience in the same direction.”
While avoiding tech altogether isn’t necessary for the maintenance of this capacity, the proportion of children’s lives which are consumed by it, versus the proportion in which they engage with the resistance-filled realm of the concrete, will be exactly proportional to the degree they stand out from their distracted, anesthetized peers — and exactly proportional to their inheritance of the future.