When I was growing up, and I’m sure I speak for my entire generation and those before me, when I complained about being bored or not being in the mood to do my homework, my parents would send me off to read a book (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Charles Dickens, Trixie Belden, all the Enid Blyton books), do something in my coloring books (and I had to submit them to Mommy or Daddy for proof and criticism), practice my sketching (this was Daddy’s field), or even worse, review my lessons for the next day. If I dared to wail about this Mommy would have a long list of household chores ready for me, which I quickly learned to avoid, which is probably why I hate dusting and ironing to this day. The last option (reviewing) was one I rarely took up, how can that possibly count as fun and anti-boredom? Television time was limited, and meeting up with friends during a school day was out of the question, at least that was life for me in the big city. I always envied the children who could meet up with their friends in a playground to just hang out. My mother’s solution to quench my boredom was to enroll me in all sorts of classic after-school activities: dance (ballet, tap, folk), painting, arts and crafts, and tennis (I managed to squirm out of swimming).

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The Art of Weeds ©MTHerzog 

I look around at children these days, or even young adults, and so few have grown up reading books, coloring in books, arts and crafts, or some sort of art and music appreciation. Entertainment for the milenials has taken on individualistic and selfish forms that curtail all forms of face-to-face socialization: Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, iFlix, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and the list goes on. People sit in their rooms and pretend to communicate with the world, creating a virtual world that compensates for their social inadequacies. It is no wonder that there are more brats out there demanding immediate gratification than ever before and when they do enter the work force, they are the most difficult employees to deal with, feeling they deserve to be promoted even before they have proven themselves and delivered solid output, just because they show up everyday and haven’t run the company to the ground overnight. What happened to the generation of men who would be proud of a small promotion to supervisor after ten years? This new generation with sophisticated new degrees who can’t deliver solid work and think using something rare called common sense wants the fancy titles without racking up the experience.

When my generation expressed a wish (for a toy, gadget or a trip) the answer was “work for it”. Translation: put in the hours, earn the money the slow and steady way, and eventually you will save up for it. My father, for example, saved up his allowance during the week so he could take my mother out on a date. I put in three summers of summer jobs before I was allowed to buy my own roller skates unsupervised. The fact that I was an only child did not get me any privileges of instant gratification, even if Daddy could very well afford everything I could have asked for. I have cousins who sold home-made baked goodies to supplement their pocket money, or initiated carpools to save on gas in college. My daughter had classmates who had never taken public transportation in their 18 years of residing this planet.

As a child I wrote page after page in my journal or diary, wrote a ton of poetry, and drafted the beginning of at least two dozen books. Today I blog or write books. My coloring books have been replaced by Lightroom and Photoshop, and instead of crayons I use a camera now. Books? I still devour them but in e-form (long live Kindle!) simply because it is more practical to carry an iPad around than three fat books and it allows me to multitask. Yes, tablets allow us to become the ultimate multi-taskers, read a few pages here, update Facebook, continue watching the movie or series you downloaded from Netflix, check out Pinterest, look up Ina Gartner’s latest recipes, online banking, music, and see what nonsense has been uploaded to YouTube in the last four hours. It makes us anti-social in every form and rude to any other companions who may be in our presence. If we don’t have a tablet on hand our fingers are constantly fidgeting with our phones, and I know several people who can text without looking at the screen and still carry on a conversation!

In terms of supreme time-wasters, however, I have to rank Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter as the top four. You cannot possibly justify to me in any way that engaging in any of these activities is productive, even if you are paid to do so. I will not deny that you can be easily lured into “just taking a peek” by either one of them, and the next thing you know 90 minutes have gone by and you realize that now you have to rush to do the real work you should have been doing in the first place.

Living by the river and watching the swans waddle to shore was the best wake-up call. Time to get out of the virtual realities and indulge in the simple pleasures of nature, ground our souls in what is tangible and embrace those who are real, and not an updated status.