Thoughts on co-dependence in young people and consequences for the future…

So I was born in 1987, which makes me a Millennial. Ironically, as I typically tell my friends and family, not a day goes by that I don’t think of myself more as a Baby Boomer. So this particular entry will most likely get other Millennials and Gen Z folks I know to shake their heads. But here we go.

I don’t know many Millennials who read much. I’ll also fundamentally state I don’t know that many people. I’m pretty introverted. I’m certainly not speaking about the entire group of Millennials or Gen Z. I will say this: it seems most of their information is absorbed through social media or other friends and family. Most of the people I do know never read. From what I can gather, it’s not because they aren’t intelligent or frown upon it, it’s just that they don’t want to read. It bores them, they can’t concentrate, they get distracted. Not that I think this is particularly feasible, but I think it would be fascinating, yet unnerving, to conduct a study to see what age group in today’s U.S. purchases books. What you’d do is require Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Thriftbooks to require their customers to submit their age when purchasing books. I am solely convinced the age group you would predominately see absent is between 18–30. Let’s face it: there’s no coincidence why bookstores and newspapers are going out of business.

So why am I saying this? Why is it so important to read? What information is missing from reading than from watching somebody on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook that would give us the same information? One might argue, we are still learning about it, so what’s the issue? And what about Google, Reddit, or other blogs and message boards? I can get the infromation from there more quickly, anyway. It’s just not the same.

Let’s start with social media: we all know the premise, and we know how destructive it has become in our society. We’ve witnessed world leaders use it to abuse their power, and we have seen it used here in this country to instill and embolden the evil that emerges through White supremacy groups, other hate groups, and misguided individuals. But not all social media is evil. When used for good, social media can benefit our society, provide more resources for communities (such as the announcement of a public health motive, like the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, among other things).

So now you might ask: how do reading and co-dependence and social media all intersect? First we must define what “co-dependence” is. Merriam Webster defines it as: “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (such as an addiction to alcohol or heroin).” Of course that is very broad and needs to be expanded on.

When I was around the age of 18, Facebook emerged, first only available because I was in college. It seemed, at first, a good platform for meeting more of my peers at the University of Arizona, perhaps even a way to see where information about one of my classes might be posted. It was only very impending that it seemed to shift and among my peers, it became more of an avenue for showing if your relationship status was “It’s Complicated” or “In a Relationship.” The school postings became less and less and then it was all about the “poking” and pictures. What’s frightening about the platform now is that it is has become an avenue for manipulation and terrorism, a far parallel from my college days.

So I was exposed to social media at a pragmatic age and I can safely say that I can distinguish the difference between relying on social media versus simply acknowledging that it exists and if used within reason can be fairly adaptable. But this is not the case for some of the folks I know. They can’t function without it. Things become so distorted that it is no longer revelant to try and seek facts from reputable sources, because this person feels as though they are getting their facts from the only practicable source.

Reading is engaging, a way of exploring another avenue that may not have otherwise been considered beforehand. If we simply rely on hearsay, we are not able to confirm whether the topic in play is just an opinion or fact. Facts are determined by science, evidence, and reasoning, and any rational person understands this. However, with the advent of social media, the facts are accentuated by opinion, in which a large collaboration of individuals discussing one critical topic, use grandiloquence and farcisim to justify fact.

If we only read the comments on social media or seek out watching videos through these platforms, then we are not getting the information to properly cultivate our understanding of the topic at hand. Some Millennials or Gen Z folks often hold debates with me, in which their argument is dependent on another person’s opinion. Or they say, “I don’t want to discuss it.” They shut down, and they become indignant.

So many of the things I’ve learned came from three sources: 1. Experience, 2. Wisdom/guidance from people who had been through the experience before and I had the notion to listen to their direction, 3. Reading, whether it was an article about something in daily life (i.e. why drinking coffee is good for you) or a book about existential threats to our planet. Either way, it allows for one to seek out guidance and gain more knowledge to better make decisions and then regurgitate the process all over again.

I plan to go over this topic more in future postings, but I must be clear, it’s somewhat daunting to think of the future for some of these folks, or the world. What are the solutions? We know we can’t just eradicate social media. We also know there appears to be no way to filter or regulate it (even those who created these platforms have no desire to do this). Perhaps one solution is outreach, a way to formulate a group or an outreach for those who may want to provide a more positive outlet for this younger group of people. But of course, we risk the notion of “outreach” being like the same conceptual notions of drug and addiction outreach. Folks are quick to declare, “don’t treat me like there’s something wrong with me.” And of course, so many of these “hypothesized” undertakings are so politized these days, that when one attempts to do outreach, often the other group of people feel like it is an act of coercion or malice. “You’re just trying to force it on me” or “brainwash” me.

The final solution is to let it run its course and when it fails, the hope is that ground zero will represent the time to change. Imagine the idea that somebody does nothing but stare at videos on social media just about every hour; then, you take that away. What’s the first thing that happens? Resentment, panic. But does it also allow for a brainstorming moment? I’d think so. What happens when you take freedom away from a newly incarcerated individual? In some instances that person feels immediate remorse and regret, distraught knowing their avenues have broken down. The hope then is that the rehabilitation process begins, that the next step is to refocus and rebuild.

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