Saturday, December 26, 2015

All Of My Best Friends Are...Technological Devices?

As a Millennial growing up in America, I can't imagine a life without technology.  Between computers, video games, television, home video, telephones, Internet, and portable music, my life has been forever affected by the various devices I used, whether just once or a thousand times.  I also tended to show a bit of attachment to technology, whether mine or someone else's.  You probably know the story of the friend of mine who said of his family's Nintendo 64, "We wish we never got it, because people who don't have it would get addicted to it!" What you may not know is that, back in 1998, a fellow Apple guru was attempting to fix a problem with our Mac by installing a system upgrade...only for us to get an error message which broke my heart so much, my mom said I literally went pale.  While that guy did get our computer back to the way it was, that still stands as an example of how important my technology is to me.  My reaction to last year's incident with my Mac was a step in the right direction: Despite one setback after another, I didn't throw a temper tantrum, and I only slightly lost my cool once.  Still, I wasn't too happy about losing my Mac...but, then again, who would be? Those things are expensive!

Over the years, I've had various friends.  Many people my age or sometimes older that I enjoyed hanging out with ended up moving; that's just the way it is in a military neighborhood like mine.  Then again, sometimes losing contact with friends had nothing to do with any transfers or any branch of the armed forces; the guy I considered my best friend in the youth group from my old church abruptly moved in 2001, without any going away celebration by the congregation, because his parents were having marital issues.  Much to my chagrin, I haven't heard from the guy since; I can't even find him on Facebook because his name is way too common.  You probably also know that I've had some friends I lost thanks to my own dumb actions; I won't open up old wounds by rehashing those dark times in my life, which I seriously do regret.

Sometimes, I have to wonder: What exactly is a friend? Webster defines the word as: "One attached to another by affection or esteem." Some would venture to say that friends do things with each other; I remember an episode of Good Luck Charlie where the two older sons, inept P.J. and troublemaker Gabe, are trying to find a way out of the annual fishing trip their father always insists on taking with them.  Their first thought was to find a friend for Daddy-O to go with...only to realize that he has no friends; as Gabe told P.J., "When was the last time you answered the door and said, 'Dad, your friends are here'?" By that standard, I don't really have any friends; most of the time, if I'm out and about, it's either by myself or with family members.  Sometimes, fellow church members or other people I know will go somewhere with me--usually out to eat--but, even then, my parents almost always come along, and the people who I'm there with are usually much older; at least old enough to be my parents.  When it comes to folks that are around my age, my interaction is very limited.

Then again, it always has been, and for more than one reason: First off, "young adults" are still young, and, therefore, possibly immature.  I know I'm not exactly the paragon of maturity, but, I can't stand bratty or otherwise inappropriate behavior from others; if I know I would have gotten punished for it when I was younger, then, I won't tolerate it...yet, coeval folks, including Christians, act in such a way all the time.  I remember towards the end of my high school years when a homeschooling family place membership at my church.  They were nice kids, but, the problem was that they were the only homeschooling family in the group, which meant they weren't used to the other teens' rowdy behavior; the associate minister even sternly warned the rest of the group about that fact, but, I doubt they cared.  I was never really homeschooled, but, I feel the same way: I find the actions of many people I know disturbing...yet, they make no apologies for the way they act; if I have a problem with it, then, it's on me, not them.  Years ago, I was upset with the entire youth group at my old church because of an incident that I won't go into; what I will say is that it affected me so severely that I sent an angry e-mail to the youth leader, which said many things that I still agree with to this day.  One of them was: "Whatever happened to edification or spurring one another on to good works? [...] Maybe, if I was shown some love, I'd give some back." Instead of taking my words to heart, the leader simply turned the question back on me, saying, "[One guy] likes you and you don't even know it.  Your responses to him and [another guy] are as rude as anything I've heard from the young group." Well, Guy A said he didn't like me, so, what else was I supposed to think? Even beyond those two individuals, the only reason for my "rude" responses was because I had to stand up for myself because no one else would.  Instead of blaming the person who was being persecuted, the "leader" should have taken the ones to task who were knowingly attacking a handicapped person with their words...but, he never did, and the same thing happened in other scenarios as well: The people who wanted to do something couldn't, and those who could do something just wouldn't.  Now that I can't get an adult to intervene anymore--as if I ever could anyway--it's likely to be even worse.

Second off: People around my age are into things that I'm just not.  You probably have rules about what you will and won't do.  I've known numerous people who won't watch certain movies--ranging from Finding Nemo to the Mission: Impossible flicks--because of their disdain for one person who stars in them.  You also probably know about my content rules: no "R" films, no "PG-13" films unless they fall into the superhero, sci-fi/fantasy, or Christian genres, no television shows or books with excessive profanity, horrific violence, graphic sexual scenes/nudity, etc. The problem is: As far as I know, I'm the only one I know who has those rules.  Most people I know--of all ages, I should add--will watch anything that isn't outright pornography, if they even are that discerning...and that includes my Christian friends.

By now, most of you know that I spent thirteen months in Boy Scouting, which was not a very good experience for various reasons, some of which I still haven't divulged publicly.  Anyway, during my time in the troop, I made friends with a kid in my patrol who was a bit different, and was known as "the crazy man" of the troop.  I actually felt a connection to him because he resembled an old neighborhood friend who had moved to Florida a year prior to me joining the troop.  When my time in Scouting came to an end, I never heard from that guy again...but, a few years later, I found out something about him during a family dinner that shocked me.  It started out as a conversation about accents; in my high school English class, we were reading Pygmalion, which is about a girl with a speech impediment who seeks out what we'd call today a speech therapist to help her out.  (If that sounds familiar, it's because said play was the basis for My Fair Lady.) After I talked about how my English teacher had illustrated how people judge others by their manner of speech, I mentioned how said Scouting buddy and his mother--who, despite being a woman, was an active leader in the troop--were difficult to understand.  My brother-in-law, who knew pretty much all the same people from Scouting I did, said, "That's because they both had very thick Boston accents." When my sister heard that, she asked who I was talking about, to which my mom answered, "Remember that guy in Scouting who you didn't think he should be hanging out with?" Looking back, I kind of agree with my sibling; that guy wasn't the best of influences, so, maybe it was divine intervention that I got out of Scouting when I did.  However, I was also a bit surprised to hear her say that, for two reasons: Not only was she very instrumental in getting me into Scouting--and, believe me, she was very disappointed when I left--but, in all honesty, most of the people around my age I knew, including the entire youth group at the time, were into pretty much the same objectionable media he was.  It may not have been exactly the same stuff--for example, he liked hard rock music, whereas some other kids I knew detested that genre--but, to me, obscenity is obscenity; the genre or medium doesn't matter.

It goes beyond just books, music, movies, and television, though.  If you know me, you know that I don't do sports, theme parks, or anything involving large bodies of water, which has caused much criticism.  While most of the people I know respect those preferences of mine, it means I can't usually do things with them, because what they like to do often involves one or more of those things...which everyone seems to like but me.  I also can't seem to get very many of my friends interested in bargain hunting or the Disney Channel; whereas those are among my favorite activities, most people I know just couldn't care less.  It's been years since I went to a garage sale with someone besides a family member.  My lack of common ground with others, which has always been present, has prevented close friendships from happening...which is why my technological devices seem to be my sole companions.

There are other issues as well--such as my lack of transportation--but, I won't go into those in detail; you probably already know all about them, anyway.  Instead, I'll say this: I'm generally a well-liked person.  Most of the people at my church or whom I work with seem to have a positive opinion of me.  Jesus even said, "Whoever is not against you is for you"...but, does everyone whose opinion of me is positive qualify as my friend? I may chit-chat with them, but, for someone to be more than just an acquaintance, there has to be a closeness there...and I just seem to lack that.  Then again, maybe I'm wrong; I've never been the best judge of, what do you think?

No comments: