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An Open Letter to My Age Group

  Dear Internet Users around My Age:

  I would like to preface this by saying that you’re only as old as you think you are, and there is nothing wrong with advancing in years provided you aren’t a complete fuckwit.

  Hello, people. I’m writing to just give you a friendly warning about how you’re all officially old now. It started when you got into your late twenties, and now that thirty is looming over you like the apparent specter of death that it is, you might as well join AARP and consider your options for dentures. Yes, it’s nothing but rocking chairs on the front porch and screaming at children from now until the day the Grim Reaper adds you to the ranks of the dead.

  Oh, a protest? You’re telling me that you can’t be old? Interesting. Because my central point in this matter is that you certainly are behaving like crotchety old folks who hate everyone and everything. Online, at least. The things you post on your Facebook wall are like tiny windows into your angry, elderly souls. Sure, you all run marathons like you’re being chased by an army of bloodthirsty leprechauns, but that’s just physical. Evidently, your brain needs reading glasses and an ear horn.

  See, the easiest way for us to determine if you’re a festering pile of geriatric asshole is your stance on youth. And I don’t mean on just one particular person – I mean on the entire generation of people college age and younger. If you don’t really think that much about them overall but, when you do, have generally positive or neutral thoughts about them, congratulations! You’re not old. But if the first things that come to mind are words like “entitled” or a bajillion other pejoratives, you’re officially the people you hated growing up.

  Good on you.

  Because of the Internet, a lot of these complaints take the forms of memes, those stupid little image macros that try to condense human experience into one sentence-worth of impact font over an image of a cat. And then there are political cartoons, which I usually regard as just below cave paintings on the cultural value scale. Most of these things boil down to one of two categories, which I shall cheerfully share with you.

  (I’m aware there are more categories – I just don’t want to be writing forever)

When I was young, we went outside!

  This one also pisses me off, because I see it come from a number of people who were into video games as much as I was. No, friends, I did not go outside all that often. You want to know why? Because being outside exposed me to bullies and ridicule for playing make-believe in my own way. Sure, I had friends on the block, too, but it was generally a safer proposition to stay inside and play video games.

  And you know what? Even before video games, there was the allure of television and being able to watch movies at home that could keep people distracted. And then there were books to keep people inside and away from other people! Jesus, people. Understand that there are going to be people that don’t want to run around like a bunch of spazzes. Understand that some of us prefer to sit in a comfortable chair and read while soft music plays instead of climbing trees.

  Also, for kids who have to deal with winter, what the fuck do you want them to do when the weather tries to murder them for a straight month? We’re dealing with a pretty awful winter here in Wisconsin, and I swear the next person who makes the “we went outside” complaint should be shoved outside for ten minutes in their swim trunks.

  A corollary to this, of course, is the people who talk about how scary it is to be outside in these riotous modern times. They’ll lament how when they were young, they could walk a mile and not be murdered. Which I can definitely understand, as not being murdered is great. I highly recommend not being murdered for all your living needs. But considering that violence – globally and in the U.S. – has fallen pretty sharply, this may be just a touch unjustified.

  Huh. It almost sounds like you want the world to be more dangerous than it actually is. Kind of like you’re the scared old person that you used to make fun of for grousing about you the same way you’re now grousing about the younger generation. I wonder if there’s a word for that.

When I was young, ____ were called books!

  Forgive me for thinking you sound like the grandpa from The Princess Bride, but you sound like the motherfucking grandpa from The Princess Bride.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Peter Falk was an amazing, super charming actor in this scene. But do you know what his main point was? To establish that he was old in more ways than just chronologically.

  Yes, books are great. They are fabulous gateways to new adventures full of wonderment. I do write them, you know. And here’s the thing: they’re not going away.

  More and more, I’m seeing one panel “political” cartoons showing a bunch of kids looking in shock at books and not knowing what to do with them. Or a teacher holding a book and talking to his class about how they need to upload knowledge or some shit, like they’re too dumb to understand anything not laden in techno-speak.

  Before I get to the larger point, every time an inept idiot tries to use modern jargon to make a point – whether as a joke or not – a dolphin drowns. So can we stop that, please?

  Just so I’m clear here, we live in a world where literacy is at an all-time high, and you have the fucking audacity to think that people will be too dumb to know how to use books? How unbelievably, stupendously shitty of you. You’re sharing this pseudo-intellectual garbage on the Internet, which is basically an unending wall of words with videos. Young adults are reading things that become incredibly popular movies and spawn shitty erotica for adults. Libraries still exist and there are some things which cannot be digitized.

  I teach at a college, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with walking down halls and seeing people looking at their phones. Of course, I only notice that when I’m not looking at my phone. Go ahead and wail about how horrible all this amazing technology is all you want, but the fact is that a lot of people are:

  Writing/Reading text messages

  Writing/Reading social media posts

  Reading message boards/assignments

Sure, there are lots of things to do on a phone and not everyone is going to use their fabulous multitools to be productive, but I’d wager that a lot of these students fall into one of these three categories. Two of the examples up there are these students interacting with people in a way that’s less obtrusive than shrieking on a cell phone. Interacting with people – you know, actually taking an active interest in their lives. The other example is actually work related, and all three involve being literate enough to utilize those tools.

  The thing is that you can’t tell me that people would just whip out a book at the slightest provocation in the past. And if your concern is that people will just not have random conversations with strangers, I hate to break it to you, but as a stranger, I’m fine with this development. In my experience, the only people who have ever just wanted to talk to me without the context of a social engagement have been trying to argue religion with me or are insane. Not everyone wants a crazy person to teach them the meaning of life and love – some of us are content to be left alone.

  So there you go, fellow members of my generation. You are officially old because you have now taken up the mantle of complaining about people younger than you. It must be nice to know that, behind the relatively youthful exterior, you’re turning into the withered, stubborn racists that we grew up making fun of. Way to make sure that the more things change, the more they stay the same, you fucks.

Jonathan

P.S. The legend of Marathon – the one where we get the whole tradition – ends with the messenger, who ran the whole distance, falling over dead. Just something to consider in your advancing years.

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