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The ‘Looking Down Generation’

Drew Alexander | Mar 4, 2013, 1:08 p.m.

The teenage boy stepped off the curb into the street as I was approaching in my car. I hit the brakes and he kept on walking, continuing to look down at his hand-held, palm-sized electronic device and all but oblivious to everything around him.

At the supermarket, the young woman was pushing her cart down an aisle while concentrating on something displayed on her cell phone. In the next instant, she collided with my parked cart, propelling it into a promotional floor display of stacked Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup. As cans noisily hit the floor and rolled in every direction, the phone-fixated female made a swift U-turn, leaving me to receive the glares of fellow shoppers.

We see people everywhere, mostly younger ones, staring at, tapping at, listening to, and otherwise plugged into something instead of paying attention to their immediate environment. They walk and often talk while constantly attached to their electronic umbilical cord, moving about like zombies amongst what remains of the human population not yet afflicted with chronic electronicus digitalitis.

I call them the “Looking Down Generation.” As their entire focus narrows to eyeing their artificial universe of words, graphics or numbers on a miniature screen, the real world passes by. What they are missing are the seemingly little things, like such natural wonders as a parade of puffy white cumulus clouds overhead forming fascinating shapes as they march across a bright blue sky. They also don’t see the flight of 25 Mallard ducks flying south in a near-perfect “V” formation. Nor can they ever claim to have viewed that perhaps once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon of a rare double rainbow that arches out of a rainstorm.

Kids are barely out of their cribs when they start twittering, texting, tweeting and all manner of heads-down engagement with a small machine. Granted, today’s technology is astonishing. But there’s a hidden cost in the digital age, the most obvious being personal safety. With eyes downcast and earphones clamped around their skulls listening to a cacophony of so-called music, the “Looking Down Generation” sets itself up for potential injury or death.

For those children in the back seat of the family car going on a road trip vacation, the scenery is inconsequential. Their eyes are transfixed on their iPads, Kindles, cell phones or glued to a compact television screen. They never saw that fertile field of pumpkins, hundreds of orange globes hugging the ground waiting to be transformed into jack-o’-lanterns or a delicious pie. They missed the stirring sight of a herd of wild Mustangs galloping free as the wind across an open plateau. They never saw that old, abandoned gas station with the faded Texaco sign and tried to picture the stories it held.

I feel sorry for the “Looking Down Generation.” Their technology-obsessed universe leaves little to the imagination. They will never experience as I did the adventures of the mind waiting in every Buck Rogers Space Ranger Kit or the awe and mystery conjured up by my low-tech Captain Midnight secret decoder ring.

Pity.

Drew Alexander, also known as “The Curmudgeon,” is a monthly columnist for Lovin’ Life After 50, writing about political issues. Send comments to drewalexander@cox.net or to Drew Alexander, in care of Lovin’ Life After 50, 3200 N. Hayden Road, Suite 210, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.

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