Wednesday, July 3, 2019

"You had a great childhood if..."

Seriously? had a great childhood." That's pretty much it.

See, it doesn't come down to whether you owned a pair of Nike sneakers with the "red swoosh" or whether you swam in a lake or had a bike with a banana seat. A good childhood is bigger than that, right?

I know this is obvious, but it doesn't stop people (especially my age -- early fifties) from posting memes about irrelevant conditions and crediting them with the sum-total of our experiences as children. Yeah, I, too, traded baseball cards with my friends, and it is a fond memory, but it wasn't a fulfillment of the Coleridgean ideal, like a child running through the Somerset countryside.

And parents. If I see one more meme about how "great" a dad is because he does something entertaining, I am going to bite my computer. Just as my unenthusiastic licking of colored and tasteless ice crystals labeled as "Sno-Cones" didn't mean my youth was a stateof euphoria, a dad taking cute pictures and letting his daughter paint his toenails doesn't make him a "great dad."

I know what you are thinking: "Duh, Chris. It's just a way to point out the cuteness or the nostalgia. No one really believes these outward shows are indications of quality."

Maybe not. But, as with all things we are repeatedly presented with, these posts tend to nudge us farther and farther into superficiality in our casual thinking.

Staying out and riding my bike "until the streetlights came on" is a fond memory. My independence as a kid, being out and playing pick-up baseball and basketball games with my friends in the summer is something I wish kids today would do more of. But, they are only components of what I remember as a pretty darned good childhood.

What's the harm? Well, it reduces thinking into a real reliance of conditions and possessions. It places importance on material things: toys, clothes, styles. It's just more hum under the music of life. Even our nostalgia is becoming superficial. We're training our kids to someday post a picture of an XBox controller that says, "If you had one of these things in your hands fifteen hours a day, you had a great childhood." We should be nostalgic for that night we talked until the sun came up, not that we had a shore house in which to do it.

It wasn't the house that made that night great. It's not the toenail polish that makes the dad great. It's not the sneakers that make the childhood great. Dig?

Sure, the cute dad is adorable. But we need to stop calling him a "great dad" because he and his daughter are squishy and lovable. Last I checked, people didn't become parents for credit; to be recognized. They did it out of love and dedication to the formation of a healthy child.

To go back, once again, to Hamlet, we need less "seeming" and more "being" and these memes are not helping. (Let's face it, the whole Internet culture is about seeming, isn't it? Maybe it is an un-winable war I'm waging here. I just saw a meme about how "sexy" a good dad is. Yuck.)

We get anaesthetized. Great dads and great childhoods don't come down to appearance. They are about soul.


  1. I'm going to offer a tangentially contrarian take on this: Despite the amateurish-looking nature of those memes, I'm convinced that many of them are the work of political organizations, public relations firms, and possibly even Facebook itself--organizations that either want to study the dynamics of online social networks or, more likely, scrape and acquire the data of users who "like" those posts.

    A couple years ago I tried to trace the origins of some of the political memes my friends were sharing, and finding out who's behind accounts with names like "Being a Liberal" or "You Know You're Conservative If..." is rather tricky, and even if you can find an organization or a name behind them, determining their motives and funding is even trickier.

    1. So i guess it's just a question of, for me, shifting my focus on to the "like-ers" -- regardless of where they come from, the effect is to make people think in shallow terms; OR, they simply attract the shallow. But your research is fascinating. That never occurred to me. Maybe it's more likely that those who generate these are more nefarious than stupid, as I suspected...