It’s 2005. I’m 8 years old playing with this little faded red rubber bouncy ball attached to an elastic string with a blue velcro wrist handle on the opposing end. I was bored and entertaining myself outside, as I patiently awaited my friend who was coming over for a play date. I threw the ball repeatedly in circles letting it twist and wind around my short, tan legs, and then letting it unwind all the way backwards. I was in the front yard of my old house, because back then, parents (at least mine), weren’t so uptight about their children’s playing space. My dad used his camcorder from inside the house to video tape me singing, dancing and twirling my ball on a string around and around. He did this consistently for the first decade or-so of my life. And he still has each home video on tape.
It was a fresh and sunny afternoon, most likely a Saturday in late Spring. There were cars driving by with their music getting louder and louder as they approached, and then dimming back down as they got further away. There’s always been this huge tree in front of my house on Linwood. We had gotten these little realistic tree-face pieces to put into the trunk of it, with their backgrounds the color and texture of the tree so it looked more real life. It had two long and tired, ovular eyes and a huge knobby nose. I think the mouth part had gone missing or came out during a storm. It was so realistic and funny to people when they realized that our tree had a face. It was a great big tree, with it’s branches reaching out directly above the roof of our living room. The trunk stood towards the left of the front window, creating enough privacy for our family of four. I have spent days and hours watching squirrels and birds running up and down and in and out of that tree. As i got older, we began having to trim some of the branches from causing problems on our roof. I never really noticed it happening in the moment, though. It was kind of like one day I’d look at the tree and think, “there were way more branches on this tree 8 years ago.” And that alone, to me, is what growing up really feels like. All of a sudden, everything’s different. You don’t even consciously realize what is going on around you until none of it remains, and all you have is memories.
Cut to 2009, only a short four years later. I had just gotten my first cell phone, as I was going into 6th grade. I was a middle-schooler now, and it made both of my parents feel a little bit better about me being in a bigger school with a much higher volume of people. It was a teal-blue Verizon Juke. I used it for texting my friends past my bed time, listening to music on the bus and taking selfies. Ahhh, the birth of the selfie! What a time it was to be alive, especially for a hormonal, pubescent Leo. I think I had my wallpaper banner say, “2Sexy4U” and my signature on my text messages changed depending on who my boyfriend was that week.
In 6th grade, we still passed notes. Not everyone had a cell phone, and most of us that did, had limited texting and calling. We would get home from school and log into AIM, post an away message and sit there and wait for someone to pretend to care enough.
At this point, we were done with our dolls and action figures. We didn’t want to play outside and wait for our friend with our bouncy ball on a string. We were annoyed by our parent’s attempts to get us away from the TV, video games and computer. But there was an inkling of sorrow inside each of us every time we denied the urge to play with our kid toys. There was a trace of innocence, still, that we tried so hard to shut away. And it worked.
All of a sudden, it was Freshman year. 2011 was the year of Instagram!! #BLESS. While the app launched in 2010, it really blew up for my generation in the summer before 9th grade, when it was still only available for Apple users. Most of us used it on our iPod touch Generation 4. You could always tell who the lucky ones with an iPhone were, because their picture quality and filters would look so much better. Those bitches. Next thing we knew, the app was available for Android users and we were judging our peers based on likes and followers.
What happened? Didn’t we miss a few steps inbetween these transitions? It feels like there was a whole part of my growing up that got blocked out of my brain. I went from 10 years old and playing with my Bratz dolls, to 11 and wondering why my bffl put her status as “away” when I knew she was really home. One minute it was acceptable to be young and innocent and the next we were judged for it. What did we do? The worst part is, it was never one person’s doing. Maybe it’s a hormonal process? Maybe we all felt it happening this way? Will this happen to my kids someday, too?
All that I know is we’re all on the same page here. We’re refreshing our news feeds trying to keep up with all that’s happening in the world outside of our dreams. What is so wrong with this? Not a thing. This is what our generation is. This is the AGE of technology, the TIME for social media. This is what the world has evolved to, what our world has evolved to. Nobody has more control over it than we do.
It’s okay to want a lot of likes on instagram, people! You’re lying if you say you don’t care. This is the way we express ourselves. This is what we can take pride in. This is how we market, network, make BUSINESS, meet PEOPLE, create ART and COMMUNICATE.
Instead of shaming ourselves and letting our parent’s generations put us down, we need to celebrate the high-paced, double-tapping world that we are so culturalized into. This is what we’re living in, and there is nothing so wrong with that.
Embrace every moment of it.