Our lives are changing at such a rapid pace that it is hard to comprehend what is actually taking place. We are being swept along by an avalanche of innovation, information, and connectivity that, together, are shaking some of society’s long-standing norms.
Everything is faster, bigger, more connected.
Gone is the simple way of life that many retiring Baby Boomers fondly remember, a time in which we lived our lives sheltered from the avalanche of information, the good and the bad, the true and the fiction. In this era, the flow of information depended on radio, the arrival of the afternoon or morning newspapers or the start of the nightly network news.
Today the news is free flowing from the Internet – sometimes reliable, sometimes not. It can be hard to tell the difference.
Connectivity has become a lifestyle essential. Almost everyone has a cell phone. Many have smartphones to check their email, surf the web, or to remotely watch television. Texting has become the preferred method of communication among people under the age of 30. Some would rather send a terse text message than to talk on the telephone.
When not texting, this new younger generation is busy growing up much faster than their Baby Boomer parents, participating in risky behavior, from underage drinking to recreational drug use, or engaging in sexual relations at an earlier age than their parents.
The wealthy are wealthier, the poor are poorer, and our country is more heavily in debt. Our politicians are more divided than ever, pursuing rhetorical assaults that are frequently more self-serving and reckless than helpful.
Some executives have pushed the envelope of what is right and wrong in business to make more and more money, amounts that were hard to imagine less than 20 years ago, regardless of the impact their questionable acts might have on the company or their most valuable asset, the employees.
The pace of change, with all of its good and bad implications, has invaded our leisure time. In sports, our favorite athletes are bigger and faster. Their sheer size, their strength, and speed, has produced new physical hazards that equipment makers cannot accommodate. The number of head and spinal injuries is up sharply in pro football, prompting the NFL to insert new rules to protect the players. In professional basketball, the players are taller and bigger. When compared to our bygone heroes like Guard Bob Cousy (Boston: 6’1”), Center Bill Russell (Boston: 6’9”), Guard Calvin Murphy (Houston: 5’9”) or Center Moses Malone (Houston: 6’10”), today’s stars seem like giants. At the current pace, the National Basketball Association will need to raise the basket from 10 to 12 feet and lengthen the court.
Some of this change is just a natural evolution. We can’t do anything about it, nor should we try. The question is whether these forces of nature and the values of society can be separated to avoid a gigantic explosion because, at the speed of our current times, we are overheated?
Or, are these the “good old days” about which our kids will tell stories to their grandchildren?
© 2011 John Gregory Self