In our virtual worlds, we know more data about each other, but less about how to be with each other than ever before.
Younger people are often miles ahead of their elders in their ability to text, email, and use social media. But relating to people through a screen is not the same as being together in person. It can be a challenge to learn how to meet and connect with new people face-to-face!
Figuring out who we are within ourselves, and who we are with others, are major tasks of adolescence and young adulthood to begin with. (And even after all these years, I often have to psych myself up before going into a room full of strangers and beginning to get to know some of them!) So it’s no surprise that any of us can run into high anxiety when it’s time to get together. Picture a large group of uncomfortable people in a room = we are totally lovely human beings, feeling tremendous nerditude.
Meanwhile, what is our image of a roaring good time? Movies, videos, and models of social behavior from the rock generation often imply that in order to have a really great time, you need to “lose it” in some way. What is the “it” that you’re trying to lose? The awkward separate-ness? That feeling of nerditude? Does the desire to let loose combust into “extreme” behavior? However we identify it, lovely human beings often come into social situations expecting that they need to be loaded in order to have a really good time. This can affect anyone of any age, but is especially worrisome in younger people.
When parents, teachers, administrators, and health personnel see binge-drinking, drug use, and casual “hooking up,” their natural response is to say “Stop it!”
“Stop drinking!” “Stop using drugs!” “Stop having sex!” This is totally understandable, and sometimes it works, but problems remain. “Just saying NO” doesn’t help someone learn what to say “YES” to.
The more intriguing fundamental question is “What makes it FUN?”
The need for fun and for social connection among people is part of our basic nature as human beings. It is not going away. We may like our electronic toys and enjoy using technology, but relatively few of us actually prefer to live as nerds (defined primarily by a set of technical abilities combined with a lack of social skills). We would greatly prefer to be loving, well-loved, socially successful individuals with awesome computer skills!
Learning what makes it fun on the most basic human level is the most pro-survival thing we can do. In order to get through this next phase of human history without destroying our environment, we’re going to need to be able to connect with people who are very different from ourselves. One of our best moves is to learn how to have healthy fun with as many different kinds of people as possible. We’re not denying our inner nerditude, we’re claiming our ability to connect with and enjoy a wider and wider circle of people. All our computer skills will help, all our personal abilities will help, we can have fun in both new and old ways, and we’ll stand a better chance of solving big problems.
There are a million reasons to be interested in these questions, from the most local to the most global, from the most mundane to the loftiest, from the drunk college kids next door to the international groups we don’t yet know or understand.
So let’s keep asking ourselves: What makes it FUN?
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Copyright 2017 Ginny Bales