Tag Archives: youth culture

The War On Boredom: Generation Z Already Bored With The Internet?

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There’s a recurring theme in the history of conflict, crises, and panics of all kinds. Most of the time, there are obvious signs. From the Great Depression to the Great Recession of 2008 to telling signs that something was up with Harvey Weinstein, there were ominous hints that something much bigger was going on. By not heeding those hints, we made things worse in the long run.

Granted, those hints are obvious through the lens of hindsight. I don’t mean to make it sound like predicting a crisis is easy. If it were, then nobody would ever lose money in the stock market and terrorists would be out of a job. It’s an unfortunate, but unavoidable theme in human history. The various signs of looming issue are subtle and the implications require more foresight than our brains permit.

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That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make an effort to sniff out a crisis before it happens. The cost of being wrong is usually far less than the anguish of being right, albeit with a few notable exceptions. I’ve been talking about a particular crisis that may very well be in the early stages as I write this. It doesn’t involve harassment, wars, or economic collapse, though. It involves boredom.

I’ve speculated that boredom may be the plague of the future. I’ve even hypothesized that Generation Z, the current cohort that is barely out of their teen years, may be prone to the kind of nihilistic mentality that further compounds the effects of boredom. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I’ve yet to see anything to discount my points.

Call it the boredom wave. Call it the coming War on Boredom. Call it whatever you want. It’s an issue that we’ll have to address on some levels. As more and more of society becomes automated by machines and streamlined by artificial intelligence, more and more people will have more and more free time on their hands.

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Even if we get to the point where society has a universal basic income so that nobody has to work or toil, we still have a problem. What are people going to do with all that free time? What happens when there’s so much of it that the boredom becomes infuriating? It’s hard to say, although there have been some disturbing signs.

Recently, though, another sign emerged, courtesy of The Daily Beast. In a recent article, Taylor Lorenz explores some revealing anecdotes about how the emerging youth in Generation Z is getting bored with the internet activities that have kept Millennials so entertained for the past couple decades. If the War on Boredom is to be a real conflict, then this could end up being the catalyst.

Say what you will about the veracity of these anecdotes. There’s a reason anecdotal evidence is considered weak evidence by the legal and scientific community. These stories still offer distressing insights with equally distressing implications. This is just one that the article highlighted.

“When I’m bored while I’m on my phone and I’m switching between different apps… I’m just searching for something to do,” said Addie, a 15-year-old in Long Island. “It’s like walking around your house in circles.” Often, they’ll find nothing on their phone entertaining and simply zone out and daydream.

Now, I’m sure every previous generations, from Millennials to the Baby Boomers, will roll their eyes at that complaint. I can already hear the condemnations of this emerging generation. A part of me, a Millennial, even feels that way.

They say things like, “You kids have no idea how great you have it! You’ve got a gadget in your pocket that gives you unlimited access to the entire library of human knowledge and an endless stream of entertainment, from books to videos to pictures of cats. How the hell can you be bored by that?”

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However, that’s easy to say for those who are old enough to remember a world without the internet, smartphones, or streaming media. I didn’t have internet access in my house until I was about 13-years-old and even then it was a dial-up connection that was painfully slow and prone to cutting out suddenly. In terms of combating boredom, my generation had different tools and different methods when we were kids.

To us, as well as the generations before us, the usage of smartphones and the entertainment content of the internet is still amazing to us. I still remember what it was like being at the complete mercy of what was on TV and having to play video games with no online multiplayer or DLC. Those time seem so distant now, but the teenagers of Generation Z have no such perspective.

From their point of view, smartphones have always existed. The internet has always been this ubiquitous thing that they’re a part of. It’s not a modern wonder to them. It’s a trivial, mundane part of their lives. People like me can’t see it like that because we still remember a world without it.

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As a result, Generation Z isn’t going to see all the entertainment and media as a wonder. They’re going to see it as part of their normal and no matter what form normal takes, it’s still going to be boring to some extent. That’s part of what makes normal what it is. The article itself even acknowledges this.

It’s tempting to think that these devices, with their endless ability to stimulate, offer salvation from the type of mind-numbing boredom that is so core to the teen experience. But humans adapt to the conditions that surround them, and technical advances are no different. What seemed novel to one generation feels passé to the next. To many teens, smartphones and the internet have already lost their appeal.

It goes even further, distinguishing how Generation Z sees their smartphones and contrasting it with their Millennial predecessors. When someone my age or older sees a teenager on a phone, we don’t usually assume they’re just bored. We think they’re just another self-obsessed teenager who can’t resist checking their social media feeds every half-second.

While it’s much easier and more self-serving to assume that teenagers are just that self-obsessed, it’s probably more likely that boredom is a larger factor here. I would take it further than that. I would go so far as to claim that this is one of those signs that we foolishly overlooked in the future.

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These teenagers have access to the same technology and media that has kept other generations so engaged and enthralled. However, they’re seeing it and they’re bored by it. Anyone who knows anything about boredom understands that when boredom reaches a certain level, you’ll go to extremes to feel any kind of stimulation.

With that in mind, what kind of extremes will Generation Z resort to in their efforts to combat boredom? If they can’t get it from their phones or their computers, how will they combat this issue? To them, it’ll be a war. To every other generation, it’ll seem asinine. However, it may very well consume the social and political landscape of the future.

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Generation Z, The March For Our Lives, And The Nihilism Turning Point

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Last year, I wrote a couple of posts about the mentality of Millennials and the possible quirks they may inspire in Generation Z, which are just starting to emerge. While I’m neither the spokesperson for Millennials, nor am I an expert on the generation they’re creating. Being a Millennial myself, though, I like to think I have more insight than most. I’ve watched their story play out and I’ve even lived part of it.

However, this particular topic isn’t about Millennials. This is about the emerging generation after them, Generation Z. While Millennials are still subject to any number of trends and criticisms, Generation Z hasn’t had much time to establish themselves or have a defining moment. That may be changing in wake of the Parkland shooting.

To understand why, it’s important to provide a bit of context about Generation Z. First and foremost, we need to identify just who they are, relative to Millennials, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers. While there’s no official cut-off point, most reputable sources identify anyone born after the year 2000 as members of Generation Z.

Those who lived through the Parkland shooting are mostly in their mid-to-late teens so they fit into this category. That matters a great deal because it’s happening at a point where Generation Z is on the cusp of adulthood. To understand why that matters, it’s important to note the context of this generation.

These kids, and they are still kids for the most part, were born into a world where they didn’t witness the horrors of Columbine or the experience the collective trauma of the September 11th attacks. Generation Z has always lived in a world where school shootings are a thing and the War on Terror has always been ongoing.

Beyond that, they’re also a generation that has been even more well-connected than their Millennial predecessors. Most never had to endure the hardships of dial-up internet or cell phones that did not have a camera. Their entire lives have been connected, so to speak. That’s part of what has fueled their reaction to the Parkland shooting.

The kids in Generation Z have been watching all their lives as horrible mass shootings from Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas happen with distressing regularity. At the same time, they’ve watched as efforts by Millennials, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers amount to very little change. The fact that the internet and social media documents all these failures leaves quite an impression.

Being young, idealistic, and not totally jaded, the members of Generation Z are finally at an age where they have a chance to make an effort of their own. They’re still not old enough to drink or vote in many instances, but they’re now in a position to make their voices heard. That was the idea behind the March For Our Lives that occurred last week.

It marks a potentially defining moment for Generation Z, one that may have far-reaching consequences for years to come. They’ve seen how many have tried and failed to use the horrors of mass shootings to promote gun control reforms. They’re also informed and educated enough to know how egregious the gun violence disparity is in the United States compared to other developed countries.

While I applaud the passion of these remarkable young people, I also worry that this event may become a turning point, of sorts. By that, I mean these noble and sincere efforts of these kids could be the catalyst that instills a sense of nihilism that may very well define their generation.

This is something I speculated on when I made my predictions on the collective mindset of Generation Z last year, going so far as to identify Rick Sanchez from “Rick And Morty” as their first icon. I stated that Generation Z would likely be the most nihilistic generation of all time. Now, the success or failure of the March For Our Lives could be the turning point that cements that nihilism within Generation Z.

As I said before, it won’t be the same kind of nihilism we associate with the Friedrich Nietzsches of the world. It’s the kind of nihilism that is the byproduct of being surrounded by so much information and seeing how little it truly matters in the long run.

Like Millennials, Generation Z is very educated. They’ve grown up in a world where they have access to nearly all the world’s relevant information through their smartphones. They’re smart enough and tech-savvy enough to see world events unfolding before their eyes. They’re also informed enough to know how hard it is for any event to make for meaningful change.

Now, here they are, having experienced one of their first traumas as an up-and-coming generation. They’ve seen all those terrible mass shootings inspire nothing but empty thoughts and prayers. They feel inspired enough and bold enough to make an effort, hoping they’ll succeed where so many others have failed.

While many are rooting for them, the odds are stacked against them. Even major news outlets are starting to spoil the outcome, applauding the kids while brushing off their ideals as youthful day-dreaming. I don’t think they realize just what kind of impression they’ll have on their generation as a whole.

Let’s say, for a moment, that the most likely scenario happens and the March For Our Lives leads to no meaningful change in gun control laws or in efforts to curb mass shootings. What kind of message does that send to the survivors of Parkland and the entire generation emerging behind it?

Firstly, it establishes that their lives, their pain, and their ideals don’t matter. It doesn’t matter how passionate they are. It doesn’t matter how traumatized they are. What they went through and how they reacted in response doesn’t matter. In such a crowded, diverse, and complicated world, their lives are trivial.

That’s almost a textbook definition of existential nihilism. Their hopes, their dreams, and their very place in the universe is insignificant. It wouldn’t have mattered if ten times more kids died at Parkland. It still wouldn’t have changed anything. There would still be no gun control. There would still be more mass shootings. All that time, effort, energy, and pain amounted to nothing.

In previous generations, it was almost beneficial to live in a world that wasn’t so connected. They could see horrible events on the news, but find a way to compartmentalize it in their minds so they could go on with their lives. With Generation Z, being so connected and informed, that’s just not feasible anymore.

They don’t just see that their efforts at Parkland were meaningless. They also see how many other mass shootings have occurred throughout history and how utterly inane such violence is in the grand scheme of things. In a sense, their ability to connect and inform themselves could render them numb to any greater sense of purpose.

That’s not to say that the kids behind March For Our Lives or the whole of Generation Z will be a bunch of dispassionate, misanthropic naysayers who are so emotionally flat that they don’t respond to stories of human suffering anymore. It just means that they’ll be a lot more calculated with their perspective.

Keep in mind, a world of regular school shootings and a never-ending war on terrorism is not some major upheaval to Generation Z. That’s their concept of normal. They’ve always lived in a world where terror attacks can happen at any time, when mass shootings can happen just as frequently, and no meaningful change ever comes of it.

For them, all the yelling, protesting, and outrage that generations of the past have voiced will just seem like background noise. If all the suffering and trauma led to nothing, then why should they bother? That may very well be a question that the Parkland survivors start asking themselves after the March For Our Lives accomplishes nothing.

Now, that’s not to say Generation Z won’t react differently. That’s not even to say that the March For Our Lives won’t accomplish something meaningful in the end. It’s impossible to predict major trends that go onto define an entire generation, but it’s still possible to note the vulnerabilities.

For Generation Z, nihilism might end up being less a reaction and more a necessity. They’re coming into a world where all the news is fake, facts battle alternative facts, and dead kids only evoke empty thoughts and prayers. Once this fact settles in, it’ll be interesting to see how they seek to define themselves moving forward.

Being the optimist I am, I believe that the kind of nihilism that Generation Z embraces could help inoculate them from some of the detrimental effects of identity politics, fake news, and outrage culture. I think that’s critical, given how these forces have corrupted debates and empowered professional trolls.

In any case, Generation Z faces an uphill battle in an effort to set themselves apart from their Millennial peers. A greater sense of nihilism may make them difficult to deal, but that’s exactly what will help define them as they seek purpose within a seemingly purposeless world.

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In Defense Of Hook-Up Culture (To A Point)

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There are certain cultural phenomena that are difficult to defend. Things like big businesses, the NFL, or the current president come to mind. However, some of those things are attacked, denigrated, or hated for misguided reasons. It’s not always the case that they should be defended, but there are times when a little balance is needed.

When it comes to a topic that’s easy to criticize, hook-up culture has a bigger target than most and that target has only grown in recent years. It’s one of those issues that has fronts for both the unceasing war on horny women and the escalating war on horny men. To defend it means fighting a two-front war, which has historically been a bad idea.

I’m still going to try, though, and not because I think hook-up culture in its current state deserves to be defended. There are certain aspects about that state that I find flawed, some of which I’ve discussed before. Even so, I do believe some aspects of hook-up culture should be defended. I still intend to pick my battles very carefully, though.

At the moment, hook-up culture has been getting attacked on multiple fronts. It used to be that only cantankerous old people whined about young people having more sex than what priests, mullahs, rabbis, and monks deem appropriate. These people saw hook-up culture as antithetical to the idealized nuclear family model that was glorified in every 50s sitcom.

Most people, these days, don’t take that kind of whining seriously. However, a new attack on hook-up culture is actually coming from other young people and otherwise educated people that are smart enough to recognize why those idealized 50s sitcoms were pure fantasy. Instead, they’re attacking hook-up culture as some inherently toxic manifestation that’s destroying men and women alike.

Make no mistake. This attack isn’t restricted to extreme conservatives who see hook-up culture as an affront to traditional values or liberals who see it as a tool of oppression that’s inherently objectifying. It’s not even restricted to man-hating feminists who think cat-calling constitutes assault or women-hating men who see every woman is a gold-digger who wants to ruin his life.

The attack runs deeper than that. Taken all together, these attacks reflects a sentiment that isn’t always hostile to sex, but treats it the same way most people treat a phobia. Regardless of political or agenda affiliation, sex from the attackers is almost always in a context of anxiety, fear, and hyper-vigilance. That phobia manifests in different ways.

If you’re a conservative traditionalist, hook-up culture evokes a fear that anything other than the nuclear family will destroy society and hurt those who participate.

If you’re a liberal progressive, hook-up culture evokes the fear that men will exploit women, using them for their own selfish reasons and subsequently contributing to their continued oppression.

To some extent, I can understand those fears. However, like most phobias that don’t involve spiders, those fear are not justified. They also reflect some very unhealthy attitudes about sex, intimacy, and romance in general.

Some of those attitudes play out in the sensationalized headlines surrounding hook-up culture. In these stories, it’s often portrayed as callous, bland, and overtly hedonistic. People aren’t getting together to fall in love, get married, and make babies. They’re just having sex the same way they would scratch an itch.

For some people, that’s unnerving, especially if they have children above the age of consent. There may even be a twinge of jealousy in that these young people are enjoying the kind of fun that older people didn’t get to experience when they were that age. While I suspect that’s a factor, I don’t think it’s the root cause.

Beyond the cause, though, the attitudes feed the sex-phobic sentiments whenever there’s news that hook-up culture may be harmful. There has been research on the topic and while the American Psychological Association does not draw any sweeping conclusions, it does take the position that hook-up culture is often prone to complications.

Chief among those complications, which also provokes the sentiments of the liberal progressive crowd, are the instances in which people regret hooking up. This is especially sensitive for women. In one study, over 75 percent of the women who’d hooked up with someone regretted it.

For some, it was just an unsatisfying experience. For others, it was somewhat traumatizing. This has become especially taboo since the recent scandal with Aziz Ansari in which the line between regret and misconduct is difficult to see. If you have an agenda, though, confirmation bias will allow you to see these situations as either misogynistic assault or man-hating extortion.

That’s what I find particularly dangerous/revealing about these attacks on hook-up culture. It’s so easy to find instances where people have a bad experience with it or are negatively affected by it. By singling these instances out, whether it’s mental health issues or part of a major celebrity scandal, every side can point to hook-up culture to justify their various sexual anxieties.

It probably doesn’t help that these anxieties may very well contribute to the ongoing orgasm gap between men and women. It also doesn’t help that trends in social media have made hook-up culture even easier to pursue than ever before. By nearly every measure, hook-up culture has little way of defending itself.

This is where I come in and I’m already bracing myself for the criticism.

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When I take a step back and look at the intent of hook-up culture instead of the anecdotes surrounding it, I do see something that’s worth defending. I’m not going to discount the negative impact it might have on some people, but I think the sentiment behind hook-up culture deserves more merit.

To highlight that merit, I need only ask a few questions. I doubt I’ll get honest answers from everyone, but at least consider them when contemplating hook-up culture.

Is it possible that hook-up culture reflects some of the inherent flaws with our traditional approaches towards seeking love and sex?

Is it possible that those engaged in hook-up culture are actually looking for some casual intimacy and NOT just hedonistic indulgence?

Is it possible that men prefer hook-up culture because they don’t want to jump through all the hoops of a relationship to get the intimacy and sexual release they desire?

Is it possible that women prefer hook-up culture because they just want to enjoy the toe-curling pleasure that comes with basic sexual intimacy?

Is it possible that some people just want to explore their sexuality without committing too much of their time, energy, and life to a relationship?

None of the questions above are rhetorical or factious in any way. They’re serious, honest questions that I think need to be asked when assessing the issues surrounding hook-up culture.

Regardless of whether or not hook-up culture exists, people are going to get horny. People are going to want to express their sexual desires. There’s no way to stop that. Religion, government, and culture has tried desperately over the years, some going to more extremes than others. All have failed.

This is what I think it hook-up culture’s best defense. It reflects and acknowledges the inherent need of people to express and explore their sexual desires without navigating the myriad of legal, social, and cultural rituals associated with it. In some respects, that reveals the inherent shortcomings in those rituals themselves.

I don’t doubt there are risks associated with hook-up culture. Disease and unwanted pregnancy are at the top of that list, along with instances of exploitation and assault. Focusing on those outcomes is like calling Eddie Murphy’s entire career a failure just because he stared in “Pluto Nash.”

There is a larger context to consider. Remember that study about people regretting their hook-ups? Well, science is rarely that definitive when it comes to matters of human psychology and sexuality. Later studies reveal that the extent of that regret isn’t very strong. It turns out that, like paying to see “Pluto Nash,” we tend to get over it. Most functioning human beings do.

Those same studies also make clear that the quality of the hook-up matters. If someone hooks up with someone for sex, but the sex isn’t satisfying, then of course there’s going to be some regret and anxiety later on. That’s what happens whenever our expectations aren’t met. Just ask anyone who got excited about the Jacksonville Jaguars’ failed Super Bowl guarantee.

This is where the extent of my defense of hook-up culture ends. While I think the various criticisms and anxieties about it are unwarranted, it does carry some baggage that makes all those unpleasant anecdotes so common.

Hook-up culture, in its current form, has all sorts of heavy expectations surrounding it. Whether it’s people actively engaged in it or those observing it from the outside, there’s this sense that hook-up culture is this non-stop party where everyone is enjoying the Caligula-style orgy and nobody leaves unsatisfied. That’s just not how human sexuality works.

Human beings are a passionate, social species. When hook-up culture becomes too dispassionate, which can happen, then it ceases to be a healthy expression of human sexuality. In that context, it’s basically glorified masturbation. As a romance fan and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I can’t get behind that sort of callousness.

However, I think the attacks on hook-up culture are more misguided than hook-up culture itself. Men are seeing it as an agenda that beautiful women are exploiting. Women are seeing it as an agenda that misogynistic men are exploiting. Liberals and conservatives are seeing it as an affront to everything they deem good and moral. In attacking it, though, they all reveal their own sexual anxieties.

If our collective sexual attitudes are to improve, along with our overall satisfaction, we need to confront these anxieties. Hook-up culture isn’t going away because people wanting to enjoy sex with fewer strings is not going away. We can either learn from it or fight it, with the understanding that fighting it rarely ends well for either side.

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Should We Re-Think Our Expectations Of Teenagers?

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When I was a teenager and in a particularly bad mood, which happened more often than I care to admit, there was this one thing my parents often told me that really pissed me off.  It came out in many forms, but this was the underlying sentiment.

“If you EXPECT it to be a bad experience, then it’s GOING to be bad experience.”

I can’t recount how many times I heard something like this. I just remember it pissing me off even more every time I heard it. They usually said it to me whenever we were going out to do something that didn’t involve me sulking in my mood. Being the great parents they were, they didn’t let that happen. They got me off my ass and out of that mindset.

They probably didn’t know at the time, but that bit of good parenting reflects a real phenomenon within our collective psyche. It’s called expectancy theory and it’s kind of what it sounds like.

It’s based on the principle that if someone has certain expectations about something, it’ll affect how they approach it. If they have a positive, hopeful attitude, then they’ll be more likely to evoke positive, hopeful outcomes. If they’re negative about it, as I often was, then it’s not going to turn out well and confirmation bias will help make it worse.

With that in mind, I’d like to apply this to an experience that’s pretty much universal for everyone. Specifically, I want to focus on our expectations as and towards teenagers. Now, I know I’ve given teenagers a lot of crap on this blog, often highlighting how they tend to do dumb things and have misguided attitudes. In my defense, my own confirmation bias has somewhat affected that.

I did not have a good teenage experience. I had a terrible attitude for much of my teenage years and, despite having great parents and amazing social support, I found ways to make myself miserable. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus less on my own experience and more on the concept as a whole.

Take a moment, whether you’re a teenager or not, to ask a few important questions about the sentiment you have towards teenagers. Don’t just think about how you feel about it, personally. Think about how we collectively approach the teenage experience.

Are teenagers more deviant because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be deviant?

Are teenagers more immature because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be immature?

Are teenagers disrespectful because of their basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be disrespectful?

Are teenagers more prone to risky behavior because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to do risky things?

See the pattern? There seems to be this underlying assumption about teenagers that rarely gets scrutinized. It’s this idea that all the biological changes that teenagers go through with puberty somehow transforms them from these sweet, innocent children into these reckless, irresponsible, proto-adults who aren’t capable of managing themselves.

It’s fairly likely that all those biological transformations that teenagers go through has some affect on their mentality. However, even the most up-to-date research on the issue concedes that our understanding of the mechanisms behind the process are extremely limited. What that means in a scientific context is we should not assume that our assumptions at the moment are wholly valid.

It may very well be the case that our expectations about teenagers have a significant impact on how we treat them. In turn, how we treat them ends up affecting how they act in response. Then, when they react, we use confirmation bias to justify our expectations. It comes off as one elaborate self-fulfilling prophecy to which we all contribute.

When you think about it, the signs are there. If you’re a teenager, just look at how the world treats you. If you’re an adult, think about how you were treated as a teenager and how you treat teenagers now.

We impose strict curfews about what they can do with their private time. We don’t trust them to consent to sexual activity until a certain age. We regularly send them to educational institutions where their lives and schedules are strictly controlled, not unlike that of prisoners. Whenever there’s a crime or an act of deviance, we tend to expect teenagers to be involved.

From my own experience, I can attest to this. When I was in high school, I noticed a distinct change in the way adults and teachers dealt with us, compared to middle and elementary school. Suddenly, everything we did was subject to greater scrutiny. It was as though everyone thought that we, a bunch of hormonal teenagers, were just one impulse away from becoming violent deviants.

I’m not going to lie. I found that kind of insulting. Teachers, adults, and even police officers would talk down to us whenever they discussed things like sex, crime, and even our personal lives. It wasn’t just that we were expected to screw up. It was almost as though we were supposed to screw up.

It never really crossed my mind that being a teenager could mean anything else. The idea that these attitudes were somehow flawed never entered my mind. I don’t think many people, including other teenagers, give it much thought now. That may very well be a problem that only makes itself worse the longer we have these expectations.

Part of what inspired me to write about this topic is an article from TheVerge that pitched the crazy, yet oddly logical idea that we should consider those under the age of 24 to still be teenagers. I admit I thought it was a joke at first, albeit not of The Onion variety. However, the author does make some interesting points.

Compared to earlier generations, youth today are staying in school longer, marrying and having kids later, and buying a house later, writes Susan Sawyer, the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne, in an op-ed published today in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The transition period from childhood to adulthood lasts far beyond age 19, when it is popularly thought to end. As a result, she writes, we should change our policies and services to better serve this population.

In a sense, the author of the article is doubling down on the expectations. Now, it’s not just people who don’t have a two in front of their age to which we should ascribe these assumptions. We need to apply that to people even older because somehow, they’re still not meeting the other expectations we have of functioning adults.

Personally, I think that’s taking things in the wrong direction. If we’re going to start expecting more deviance and immaturity from more people, then that’s what we’re going to see and not just from confirmation bias. Just as I did as a kid, my negative expectations led to negative manifestations. Now, they may follow young people beyond high school.

It’s not magical thinking to say that attitude matters when it comes to dealing with people. Human psychology is extremely complex and varies wildly from individual to individual, but humans are still a very social species. As such, treating others with respect and maturity will provide them with incentives to do the same.

I don’t deny that certain assumptions are difficult to escape, especially when some of them are incorporated into actual policies. Even if we woke up tomorrow and started treating everyone over the age of 13 as a responsible adult, it probably wouldn’t resolve the many issues we still have with youth in society. However, as I came to learn as an adult, having a good attitude goes a long way towards achieving a good outcome.

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Teaching About Sex, Consent, And Relationships (Through Video Games)

Let’s face it. Most kids aren’t that eager to learn about the stuff that their teachers, parents, and school administrators want them to learn about. They’re not interested in knowing the skills that will make them healthy, productive, tax-paying consumers who will keep society running. They’re interested in the skills that will make them popular and/or get them laid.

The deficiencies of our education system are many and I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the experiences I had within that system. However, I don’t want to dwell too much on that this time. Talking about how much I hated high school is rarely that sexy.

Instead, I want to focus on something that most kids are eager to enjoy and how some people are using that to improve their understanding of sex, sexuality, and relationship. What could kids possibly excite kids that much to learn about something that they would rather not learn from the same gym teacher that makes them run laps in winter?

The answer is more obvious than you think. It’s video games. Admit it, that almost makes too much sense.

There’s no question that kids love playing video games more than learning about quadratic functions. According to a survey done by the MacArthur Foundation, approximately 97 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 play video games. When it comes to statistics and surveys, you can’t get much more definitive without asking kids whether chocolate fudge tastes good.

Kids might not be able to agree whether Superman could beat the Hulk, which he totally could, but they agree that video games are awesome. So if kids love video games so much, why not use that love to teach them valuable lessons about sex, relationships, and consent?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m not being facetious either. It’s not about the medium or whatever asinine controversies it may have. It’s about working with what kids already love and using that to help them in valuable ways. It’s not that radical a concept. Hit movies have been made about it.

When it comes to teaching kids about sex, though, I wouldn’t expect Edward James Olmos to star in a movie about that. That doesn’t mean the concept is entirely flawed. Teaching kids about sex is hard enough. Teaching them in a way they’ll remember and take seriously might be beyond the power of Hollywood.

That still doesn’t stop some from trying. In a story by Kimberly Lawson at Vice, an associate professor of medicine at Yale University has helped create a game called PlayForward: Elm City Stories. It’s a fairly straightforward, two-dimensional role playing game that is less about killing aliens or Nazis and more about guiding players through a narrative, showing how their decisions affect them along the way.

That’s not quite as radical as it sounds. Role-playing games represent a large chunk of the video game industry. Major game franchises like “Mass Effect” and “Final Fantasy” are built around the idea of having players make choices and face repercussions of those choices. Take away the aliens and the monsters, though, and you’ve got a solid basis for understanding real life choices.

PlayForward: Elm City Stories plays less like Dungeons & Dragons and more like the classic board game, Life. In it, you play as avatar in a fictional, but fairly realistic city where you have to navigate a variety of activities and make choices along the way.

Some of those activities involve who you your friends are. Some involve going to certain events and parties. Some even involve whether or not to make out with a cute girl. It may sound mundane, but like most RPGs, the appeal is diving into the world of the character and leading them through it. Here’s how Vice describes the experience.

Players have to make important, life-changing decisions, including whether or not they should go upstairs to make out with someone, if they should use a condom or not during sex, and whether they should accept pills found in someone’s grandmother’s medicine cabinet. At any point, they can fast-forward to the epilogue to see what their character’s life looks like at 30, based on the decisions they’ve made.

Through that experience, players learn about more than just saying no to the guy on the street corner offering a free hit of crack. They experience both the short-term and long-term impacts of their decisions. Given the notoriously short attention spans and limited foresight of kids, that kind of insight in indispensable when teaching them about sex and relationships.

It’s no “Super Mario Brothers,” but the lessons it conveys are more valuable than any princess. It puts the players in a position to choose the right and wrong path. It shows them just how right and wrong those paths can be in the long run for their character and themselves, by default.

Beyond just consequences, the game gives players a chance to explore situations involving intimacy, consent, and relationships. Their choices help forge the relationships they have throughout the game. To get a better outcome, they actually need a better understanding of intimacy and consent. The fact that gives them tools to apply those lessons in the real world just a pleasant side-effect.

In a sense, PlayForward: Elm City Stories is coming along at the perfect time. We live in a world where sexual harassment and sexual assault are heated issues. We, as a society, are not as willing to turn a blind eye to these sorts of indiscretions anymore.

Just punishing the Harvey Weinsteins of the world isn’t enough, though. We need to teach the emerging generation that there’s a time and a place to show a beautiful woman your genitals. Knowing those circumstances will be the difference between having a great sex life and being sued into oblivion.

Kids aren’t going to learn those skills through lectures, after school specials, and cute puppets. Some of the most effective learning methods involve active engagement with real activities that offer real rewards. In that sense, video games are the perfect medium for that kind of teaching.

While I doubt that PlayForward: Elm City Stories will win any game of the year awards, it sets an important precedent that is worth building upon. Saving princesses and shooting killer aliens is still fun, but learning about relationships, consent, and sex will take a player much further in life.

Kids, and people in general, learn best when they don’t know they’re learning something. Video games may still have a nasty reputation in some circles, but it offers opportunities to teach valuable skills that aren’t easy to teach, especially to hormonal teenagers. We should take advantage of those opportunities and hopefully, PlayForward: Elm City Stories is just the beginning.

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Birthdays And Mid-Life Crisis: Should I Worry?

What goes through the mind of a person having a mid-life crisis? I used to ask that question a lot and laugh at the implications. Now, I ask that question more than I care to and often dread the implications.

Recently, I just celebrated my birthday. I’m not an old fart just yet, but I’m long past the age of celebrating birthdays with candles, puppets, and trips to Chuck E. Cheese. I can’t really call myself young anymore either. The fact I often recall my colorful college years is proof enough of that.

As of now, I think it’s safe to say I’m middle age. I’m in the early part of my 30s. I’m not married, I have no kids, and I’m single. While I’ve had a few failed efforts at online dating, I’m currently a long way away from having a stable relationship. That makes me worry that I’m on track for a mid-life crisis.

That may come off as paranoid, on my part. According to actual research on the subject, which does exist, people don’t have these things until their mid-forties at the earliest. However, I feel as though I check one too many boxes with respect to men who end up overly obsessing about where they are or aren’t at a certain point in their lives.

Maybe I’m just overreacting, after having celebrated a birthday that reminded me I’m a year older. I hope that’s the case because I don’t think I would handle a mid-life crisis well. According to WebMD, these are the signs that a man may be going through one and isn’t handling it in a healthy way:

  • You’re uneasy about major elements in your life
  • You feel that your time for taking a new direction is running short
  • You’re making unusual choices
  • You feel trapped and are tempted to act out in ways that will blow up your life

Either one of these symptoms is something I don’t think I’d handle well. In the past, I’ve shown an ability to effectively shame myself into changing my habits for the better. Who’s to say it won’t work in the opposite direction? I like to think I have enough perspective to avoid that, but I don’t know for sure what age will do to that perspective.

I’ve also had a tendency to be significantly behind the curve when it comes to social skills. Based on the particulars of a mid-life crisis, I worry that I might start pushing myself in unhealthy ways to unhealthy extremes. In a mid-life crisis, I imagine I won’t learn just how unhealthy it is until it’s too late.

This may all still be paranoia on my part. It might also be me worrying about getting deeper into my 30s, but still being single. I’ve already had that cause some issues in the past. As I get older and remain single, I’m sure those issues will continue.

It doesn’t help that a lot of friends and family members are starting to get married, have children, or get involved in long-term relationships. When I was in my 20s, I could sort of get away with being an outlier. I could just fall back on youth, inexperience, and stupidity. Those were good excuses, but like all excuses, they eventually become hallow.

Perhaps that’s what has me most worried about the prospect of a mid-life crisis. In talking about excuse banking, I’ve had to think a lot more about the excuses I’ve made in the past and the ones I still make to this day. I’m making these excuses at a time when I’m happy, healthy, and not feeling too old.

That could change a great deal after a few too many birthdays. Beyond the fact that the body always breaks down with age, the world around me is constantly changing. It’s a given that at some point in my life, I’m going to feel a certain level of stress, regret, and anxiety. That might tempted more than just extra excuses.

I’m not sure how that will manifest. Maybe I’ll go wild for a while at parties that I have no business attending. Maybe I’ll try to marry a random stranger on a trip to Las Vegas. Maybe I’ll buy a custom sex doll and name it after one of the characters in my books. It’s hard to know until it happens. I don’t want it to happen, but celebrating another birthday makes me wonder whether it’s inevitable.

In many respects, I’m well-equipped to either survive a mid-life crisis or avoid it altogether. I have a very strong support network among friends and family. I’m very close to my siblings, my parents, and my friends. A lot of them, especially my parents, know me better than I know myself. If I’m going through something, they’ll often pick up on it before I do.

Having that kind of support always helps. They’ve been a big part of what has inspired me to write this blog and my novels. I sincerely hope that one day, I can find a beautiful, loving woman to share that inspiration with as well. I’m working on that, but for the moment, I’m more vulnerable to a mid-life crisis than most.

At the moment, though, I’m still healthy, sane, and sexy as I’ve ever been. If that changes, chances are my posts on this blog will get a lot crazier and for a blog that has referenced sex robots, sex-positive superheroes, and cheesy romance movies that few men admit to liking, that’s saying a lot.

For this year, though, I’m going to enjoy all the birthday wishes I got from friends and family. I’m going to lavishly spend all the gift cards and eat all the cake. I’ll even have myself an extra beer for good measure.

Another year in this world has helped me improve as a person and as an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I want to keep improving. I also want to be ready for the moment when things in my life get rough.

I know if I can overcome them, I’ll be even better. Maybe I’ll even be able to get a few sexy novels out of them as well. If that kind of story helps me build my success, then I’m willing to endure in the name of all things sexy.

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The (Potential) Sex Lives Of Generation Z

Talk to any parent with kids younger than 13 and chances are they do not want to think about their children’s’ future sex lives. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they would rather think about anything else.

Some parents would rather stick their heads up the ass of an elephant than think about their precious little gems getting naked, sweaty, and making the kinds of noises usually reserved for the honeymoon suite in Las Vegas. The fact remains, though, that those kids are going to grow up. They’re going to grow breasts, get awkward boners, and feel the urge to hump each other.

I’m not a parent yet so I can’t say much about what goes into those thoughts. I get that parents are very uncomfortable talking to their children about sex. Kids are just as uncomfortable learning about it from parents. Most kids would rather pour boiling water into their eyes than catch their parents in a compromising moment.

On both sides of the equation, there’s an inherent aversion to imagining the sex lives of young people. There’s just as much of an aversion by young people to talk about their sex lives with their parents. On this blog, there is no such aversion. I already talk about sex robots and bionic penises. Those kinds of aversions have no place here.

I say all this as a preface, of sorts, because I’m about to talk about the future sex lives of Generation Z. In case you’ve forgotten, most of the individuals who fall in the range of Generation Z aren’t even old enough to drive, let alone legally hump. A lot of them don’t even know what sex is. They just know to start giggling uncontrollably when someone starts talking about it.

In talking so much about millennials and Generation Z lately, it was only a matter of time before I started talking about their sex lives. Given how much I enjoy speculating on the future of sex, how could I resist?

Like it or not, it’s going to become an issue at some point. That’s because it always becomes an issue when a generation comes of age. Baby Boomers caught a lot of crap from their parents because they started the whole “free love” movement. Generation X caught crap from their parents for ditching the love part, in favor of “friends with benefits.”

At the moment, the millennials are getting their share of crap for things like sexting, which I’ve talked about, or arguing about how attractive people should think Kaitlin Jenner is. The dynamics may change and so do the excuses. The underlying themes are the same, though. Older people will always be appalled by how young people approach their sex lives.

So what exactly will Generation Z do that will horrify the multiple generations that came before them? Given the prevalence of internet porn and the mainstream success of “50 Shades of Grey,” how can they possibly do anything to shock anyone at this point?

Well, as an aspiring erotica/romance writer who thinks more about this issue than most would dare, I have a few ideas. I’ve already contemplated the potential secrets and mentality of Generation Z. Now, I’d like to take those secrets to kinkier depths.

Before I get to those juicy parts, though, I need to remind everyone that I can’t see the future. I’m about as qualified to predict popular trends as I am to wrestle a grizzly bear. It’s very likely that some of these sexy speculations turn out to be dead wrong. A decade from now, I might look like a total idiot for making these predictions. I wouldn’t be the first either.

With that unsexy disclaimer out of the way, here’s what I think we can expect for the sex lives of Generation Z. If you’re a parent, you might want to look away or temper your gag reflex. Some of these speculations might churn your stomach.


Sexy Trend #1: Fetishes (Especially The Kinky Kind) Will Dominate

When it comes to the average sex life in the day of Generation Z, kink is the new normal. Weird is the new ordinary. If it’s freaky, over-the-top, and involves clowns with dildos, then that’s going to get this burgenoning generation horny in ways that will disturb every other generation before it.

With Generation Z, sex will be likely be defined by a multitude of fetishes. At the moment, the fetish world is a niche market, but one that’s already growing. However, it’s a market that Generation Z will take to the next level and beyond, much to the horror of their parents.

Ironically, it’s those same parents from Generation X and the millennials that will have laid the groundwork for this trend. This is the generation that built the internet and internet porn, by default. Generation Z is coming into a world where anyone with a phone can look up countless images and videos of people having sex. It’s so prevalent that it barely qualifies as taboo anymore.

It’s for that exact reason that Generation Z will seek something kinkier. Young people always feel inclined to rebel against their parents. Their parents made a big deal whenever someone found a dirty magazine or unlocked the parental controls on the internet. Generation Z won’t make a big deal of anything unless someone is pierced, tattooed, or wearing a horse mask.

In a future with unlimited internet access to unlimited volumes of porn, those in Generation Z will likely define their sexuality by their own personal kinks. They’ll be more inclined to customize their sexuality, so to speak. It’s hard to know what kinds of fetishes they’ll develop. Whatever the case, I’ll have to adapt my sexy novels accordingly.


Sexy Trend #2: Talking About Sex Will Be (Uncomfortably) Blunt

For most people, talking about sex can either make your pants feel tighter or your stomach churn, depending on the situation. While I generally favor the former, there are still plenty of situations where the latter occurs. I’m pretty sure that’s the case with every kid who endured health class in high school.

With Generation Z, it’s likely that the nature of that conversation will change. It’ll still be awkward. Talking about sex always will be, to some extent. However, a new crop of youth, educated by their already-educated parents, will probably be a lot less filtered. To illustrate what I mean, here’s a quick scenario that may play out in the future.

Man: So, you like sex?

Woman: Yeah, I love sex.

Man: Cool. How do you like to do it?

Woman: I like being on top, having my nipples pinched, and licking chocolate off a man’s balls.

Man: You’re in luck. I happen to love licking chocolate off a woman’s vulva. Want to have sex later tonight? I’ve got plenty of chocolate.

Woman: Sure! Here’s my number. I’ll see you then.

I can already imagine Baby Boomers, millennials, and the Generation X crowd cringing and/or laughing. It sounds so crude, like only something a guy who writes sexy novels would contemplate.

Well, I’m not saying my novels are prophetic, but that overly blunt approach may be the natural reaction to everything previous generations have set up. It was Generation X that began the movement of political correctness that made everyone so anxious about the words they used. It was the millennials who took it a step further with their obsession over gender pronouns and cultural appropriation.

Generation Z is in a perfect position for a backlash, of sorts. They’ll see their parents and grandparents’ anxiety over using the wrong words and do the exact opposite. That means they will likely be a lot more blunt, graphic, and up front about sex, how they like it, and how they go about getting it. I’ll give every parent a moment to writhe in terror.


Sexy Trend #3: Emphasizing Quality (Orgasms) Over Quantity (Partners)

Not every generation sees the sexual practices of their parents and does the exact opposite. Sure, Baby Boomers did a lot of that with the sexual revolution, but Generation X and the millennials basically rode the wave of certain sexual trends. Generation Z will likely do the same.

One of those trends involves an overall reduction of sexual partners. I’ve talked before about the overall decline in sexual activity among young people today. Not all of that has to do with people becoming more uptight, though. Some of that has more to do with economic factors, as well as men and women wanting to build careers before they forge relationships.

While it’s much harder to predict what kind of economy Generation Z will experience, it does seem likely that they’ll continue the trends established by their parents and grandparents. That’s not to say that they’ll become Puritans. It’s more an issue of how they’ll channel their sexual energy.

Along with being more inclined to follow a fetish, those in Generation Z will likely focus less on the amount of sex they have and more on the quality. While that may be bad news for the orgy industry, it could be good news for those seeking love, like myself.

The world, as we know it, is becoming increasingly customizable. We can customize our clothes, our phones, our social media identities, and even our avatars in games. The ability to customize our sex lives in accord with our various kinks seems like a natural extension. In a world full of billions of people, all connected through the web, it’ll be that much easier to find someone who can make you come in just the way you want.

I’ll give every other generation a moment to withhold their raging jealousy.


Sexy Trend #4: Sexier Tech (Beyond Sexting)

Connected to every sexual trend, both with Generation Z and all previous generations, is the impact of technology. The birth control pill was a huge influence on Baby Boomers. The internet was a huge influence on Generation X and Millennials. There are other technologies that we don’t even know about that will likely influence Generation Z.

Some of that technology is already emerging. We’re seeing it with the rise of smart devices, including smart sex toys. We’re also seeing smartphones evolve beyond just taking pictures of pets and sending nude photos. Millennials may have made practices like sexting more common, but Generation Z will have far more tools at their disposal.

Already, tech companies are investing heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality. The devices that Generation Z ends up using will do far more than send naked pictures. As the internet showed previous generations, if it can be used for porn, then it will be used for porn eventually. Don’t think for a second someone isn’t working on that right now.

Beyond better tools to express their sexuality in new ways, there’s also the potential impact of disease-fighting tools like CRISPR and new forms of contraception like Vasalgel. Given how the pill affected the Baby Boomers and how AIDS affected Generation X, it’s hard to overstate the implications for Generation Z if they enter a world of no disease and advanced contraception.

It may very well be the wild card, of sorts. Whenever limits on sexual expression are removed, people tend to react. Some of those advancements might not come until Generation Z has started having kids of their own, but they will have an impact at some point.

Even with those implications, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the impact that sex robots will have. However, that’s one advance that will affect all generations and not just Generation Z, probably in ways that are too kinky for one blog.


Sexy Trend #5: More (Sexy And Unsexy) Experimentation

As part of all the other trends I’ve listed, there’s one that sort of connects them all. Generation Z will enter a very different sexual world than that of their parents or grandparents. Beyond the gadgets they use or the accessibility of information about sex, they’ll have an unprecedented ability to connect, learn, and grow sexually.

As a result, it’s very likely that Generation Z will be one of the most sexually adventurous cohort in history. By that, I don’t mean they’ll be having more sex in utility closets and airplane bathrooms. I’m talking about the kind of experimentation that hasn’t even crossed the minds of those who don’t regularly write about sex. Given my knack for writing sexy novels, I like to think I have an advantage.

If Generation Z has a greater ability to exercise their various fetishes, connect with others who share those fetishes, and use advances in technology to mitigate the risks, then there’s nothing stopping them from attempting novel forms of sexual expression.

Maybe their concept of role playing will expand. Maybe the way they set the mood or initiate sex will change. Maybe they’ll put together the kinds of sexy scenarios that only a porn producer on crack would come up with. It’s impossible to know, but they’ll be in a perfect position to try. In matters of sex, you only really need to give people an opportunity and a way to mitigate the risks.

To millennials, and every other generation, it’ll come off as decadent. Even if the Generation Z crowd ends up having less sex with fewer people, those kinds of attitudes will still shock and horrify the older crowd. Some of that might be out of jealousy. I’m sure there are those who simply wish they had access to better contraception and disease-fighting tools when they were younger and hornier.

At the end of the day, though, this may be Generation Z’s idea of normal. To have all these tools and opportunities, but not explore their limits would seem weird to them. It may be the only sexual trend that all generations share. From their perspective, every generation’s sexual proclivities seem weird.

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Filed under Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships, Second Sexual Revolution