In 20 BC, Roman poet Horace wrote: Our sires’ age worse than our grandsires. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.
The sad human tendency to belittle subsequent generations has existed for more than two thousand years. These days, cranky elders have the ability to spread that message instantly and globally with one satisfying click of the finger.
They don’t even have to take the time to compose their thoughts, but can join the generation bashing by sharing a message or a meme.
“Idiots,” they say as they like and share a photo that dismisses all young people as Tide Pod eaters. And, even though such behavior says way more about the poster, the liker and the sharer than it does about the generation they demean, it bothers me.
I like to deal in facts. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 10 deaths have resulted from Tide Pod consumption — eight of them were senior citizens suffering from dementia, and two were toddlers.
The whole “Eat a Tide Pod” challenge stemmed from a satirical article in the Onion and, while it did spark a social media challenge with relatively limited reach, I can guarantee you that the few kids sticking laundry detergent in their mouths are not true representatives of a generation I find so articulate and brave.
How about this Social Media Challenge? How about engaging a young person in a real conversation? Invite them for coffee, tell them how you feel and listen to what they have to say.
It’s the listening part that’s the hardest for both sides, but the more we practice the better we’ll get.
And, here’s the most important part: agreement is not the goal of good conversation, edification is. You can emerge from an excellent conversation unconvinced to change your position, but empathetic to theirs. You both see where the other is coming from and you understand why he or she feels so strongly. You learn from each other.
As our life expectancy continues to increase, so too does the number of generations to which we’re exposed.
Let’s all enjoy that happy fact and the opportunities it offers.