I forget which generation I belong to. I can google it at a moment's notice on one of my million devices and find out, so why bother remembering?
Older generations like to complain about how reliant we are on technology. "The kids these days, with all this hyperconnectivity, they just don't know how unplug and smell the roses. They're missing out."
They have a legitimate point. Our generation (I think it's Z or C, but I'm not sure because my iPhone battery died from too much tweeting) uses technology to document our lives and fill the awkward pauses with dancing cats and "make your own memes."
Older generations say that by using technology to fill those empty spaces and to avoid creating demanding relationships, we are missing out on the beauty of the unplanned, messy elements of life.
However, our wizened critics ignore their role in creating a generation of oversensitive, overstimulated, overachievers suckling on the teat of technology.
For every Bowdoin student that tries to do everything in excess—joining 12 campus organizations, double majoring, updating a Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram account, writing run-on sentences while calling home for paper edits—there is a baby boomer or two who sowed the seeds of those behaviors (literally and figuratively).
As prospective students troll the campus with helicopter parents in tow, it is important to remember the baggage of our cultural inheritance. The need to appear well-adjusted, to be constantly busy, to have our actions "liked" by our friends, to never be out of touch, didn't come out of nowhere. These are reactions to the wishes of our parents, a generation that wanted its kids to have it all.
The baby boomers want us to be as successful, if not more successful than they are, without enduring the hardships they faced dealing with their damaged, post-war parents. For parents who immigrated, they wish their children success without the stresses of assimilating to a foreign and often hostile culture.
What began as complementary objectives—to raise happy and successful kids—quickly took a turn for the worse. Parenting 101 books explain the importance of unconditional love, but may not mention that training your child from age four to be the next baseball, spelling bee, or bassoon phenomenon could send contradictory messages. "We love you no matter what, but you sure as hell better succeed;" "Money isn't important, but you should make a shitload anyway."
Technology allows us to edit our lives instantaneously, like our ability to delete any unflattering photos (like the ones from Ivies that just might hinder future employment).
We can multitask at breakneck speeds, make time in our schedules for our social lives, the multitude of interests that make us well rounded, and the extraordinarily high standards we set. And when we need a break, entertainment is as accessible as a Netflix account.
Yet something is missing from the puzzle. The fact that students who one day seem fine, but the next take medical leave, suggests that leading tech-saturated, hyper-managed lives takes its toll. Memes don't necessarily add up to meaning. We pay a price every time we robotically answer "Hey, how are you?" with "Good, thanks."
The baby boomers are right to question whether we use technology as an escape. Yet they rarely reflect on what we might be escaping from. They programmed us to play the game, to get good grades, to believe unflinchingly in our exceptionality. They wished perfection upon us.
Using technology to avoid the awkward pauses and messy relationships isn't the problem. The problem is failing to acknowledge that everyone is a little f---ed up; that our baby boomer parents weren't perfect and neither are we. You can't stop to smell the roses without also smelling the sh-- they grow in.
Eric Edelman is a member of the Class of 2013.