I am fascinated with how our means and modes of communication have evolved even within my Boomer lifetime. “Kilroy was here” predated the Smiley face by roughly ten years, but literally spread around the world during WW2 and afterward. There is a story behind “Kilroy,” but rather than get into that, I just want to use it as an example of the human need to express one’s individuality with some form of symbols, including “mere” writing. I am a prime example of this, writing this blog that is my mental salvation. I can say what I want to – since I live in the USA – since my father and the rest of the “Greatest Generation” saved civilization. And, I truly miss those days when people actually wrote letters and put them in the mail. There was nothing like getting a sweet, perfume-scented letter from my distant girlfriend when I was in the military. Today, with “Skype” and all, I suppose that is “better,” but it’s like the difference between reading a book and seeing the movie of the book’s story. Really.
Over my childhood, I carved my name into a number of trees, usually in the soft bark of persimmon trees. Also during my boyhood I saw carvings in large rocks done by someone else a generation before me; and, then decades later I saw carvings done by First Peoples in rocks in New Mexico. Similar impressions as we know are to be found all over the world, expressions of the human condition from distant human beginnings.
Then, let’s not forget the tags of those who spread graffiti (often done by youth succumbing to that very basic human need to, as I stated above, “express one’s individuality,” to assert one’s very existence.
And, then came emojis. And they just keep coming and coming. I use them often, slap my face! I am told “kids” even can communicate with just emojis……well, I guess.
But what really is amazing to me, is how social media has just taken over. The ability to express ourselves instantly around the world, with a few words, art, symbols and photographs, real-time video, “facetime” and all, has given those who have access to the internet unlimited potential of individual expression. With this unlimited potential comes the relentless motivation of so many of us, especially the younger generations, to fill that potential with constant injections of their “individuality.” It’s like every young person with a smart phone wants to constantly be on their own soap box, shouting “whatever” to the whole world. If aliens are monitoring all our electronic signals, certainly they have to be scratching their heads (with their long skinny, fifteen fingers!). Maybe our youth need to practice periods of abstinence from their phones?? In some cultures long periods of silence between one person speaking and another “answering” is perfectly normal. But in our Western society it seems we must constantly be chattering.
Do we need to declare one hour each year to be an hour of silence? I think so. To reflect on our individuality, and how we might best conserve and apply that person who is “self.”