On one hand, it seems like adulthood is getting younger. Six-year-olds are taking computer lessons, twelve-year-olds own mobilephones and seventeen-year-olds are entrepreneurs. On the other hand, it feels like maturity is an endangered species. Oh sure, there’s the whole ‘maturity has nothing to do with age’ argument. I’ve used it myself. But I’m coming to change my mind.
Specifically, in the area of the internet, since this is where the age limits are vanishing the fastest, this is visible. Programming, web design and social media are all populated by younger and younger people who match or even surpass older people in skillset. However, the deeper ramifications of each action appear to be lost on them. Indeed, several such things are shrugged off as ‘old-fashioned behaviour’.
What’s worrisome is that the controls of things with far-reaching consequences are in the hands of several people who may not even consider the ramifications of their actions. The MMS scandals are one alarming fallout of powerful technology in the hands of those who are not yet ready to take responsibility for their actions. And yet, look at the damaging consequences of a mistake.
Three times in the recent past, my privacy has been invaded. Recently, I’ve had another two encounters. In the first case, I went out with a bunch of people, friends and their friends. One of them later went out and said something about my ‘hot date’, referring to a friend who had travelled with me. By the time this news got back to me, it had become my ‘happening love life’. Haven’t kids today heard of the saying, ‘Loose lips sink ships‘?
The second relates to an interview for a media piece. A friend gave out my personal details to someone who in turn, circulated it to someone else. The first I heard of it, was when I received an email from a total stranger who said he knew ‘a friend of a friend’, had my phone number but had been asked to ‘appease’ me before calling.
When I protest in such situations, the responses are predictable. Occasionally someone is apologetic and the common refrain is,
I didn’t realise you would mind!
Really? Is that not obvious? A phone number is personal. So is an email address unless it is freely available on the person’s online profile (blog, Facebook, Twitter etc). If it’s personal, it’s for a reason. If you have it, don’t share it without asking. What happened to the smartness of kids?
And this is the good news, that a few people are at least contrite. The larger majority takes offense (!) and tosses it back with a,
You’re the one who’s making a big deal out of it, loser.
Of course that’s just arrogance. And arrogance and thoughtlessness both indicate a lack of maturity.
I know I’ve showed both of these traits (and perhaps I still do). I’ve learnt from lessons by older people and
by making mistakes and being pulled up. My motivations and references have changed over time. I’ve figured out the battles I want to fight and also where it’s okay to lay down my arms. I react differently to things, I think before doing certain things. My attitude and hence I, have evolved. This is my maturing (still in progress) and it happens over time. It cannot be rushed or shrunk back.
You can put a kid on the fast track but you can’t make him an adult before his time. Unfortunately, considering that the world is getting younger, we’re now in the unenviable position of passengers in a powerful vehicle being driven by an underage driver. We’re hurtling into the future along with them. It’s anyone’s guess where we’ll all end up.