Having Grown Up Before Social Media Existed by Jamie Beckett

Having Grown Up Before Social Media Existed
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

Now that I’m officially closer in age to 100 than I am to one, I have the comfort of looking back on the milestones of my life. Many of which I celebrate, quietly at home when everyone else has gone to sleep. The Junior Prom. The Senior Ball. Graduating from high school. My first car. My wedding. My next wedding. Yet another wedding. You get the picture. The big, special moments in life.

These milestones are all wonderful in their own way. They are part of the historical record of my time on this planet. They’re the things I’ve done, the events I’ve witnessed, and in at least a handful of instances, the jail time I’ve dodged.

No harm, no foul, right?

Thankfully the statute of limitations has run out on pretty much all the hooliganism and poor decision making of my youth. There is no record of my hijinks. Or at least, none that can be tied to me in court, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Luck and timing. Some of us get it. Some of us don’t.

My good fortune results from the fact that I was born and raised in the PSM era of human endeavor. Pre-Social Media. Write that down. I have no doubt the term will one day be adopted as a common mark in the history of human development. My peers from the PSM era are essentially bulletproof. We can claim almost anything and get away with it. I can claim I was at the original Woodstock, and you could never prove I wasn’t. I might suggest I regularly had tea with Richard Nixon during his later years, jumped a 1963 Ford Falcon over 16 school busses in Milwaukee on a dare, or walked across Lake Superior with floaties superglued to my Keds. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. You’ll never know.

On the other hand, woe be to those born in the ASM (After Social Media) era. Their entire lives have been photographed, documented, cataloged, and stored discretely into tiny digital boxes where their most embarrassing moments can be recalled at a moment’s notice. Amazingly enough, this isn’t an invasion of their privacy that’s been forced on them by an authoritarian government run amuk. This next generation’s public humiliation is all self-induced and comes complete with a big ol’ smile and more often than not, a restroom stall in the background.

Yes, it’s true. There has never been a time in human history when it is so satisfying to be old and near death. As least my generation gets to go out with our pride intact – for the most part. We do have David Cassidy to answer for. But in our defense the 1970s were a pretty weird period of national recovery and experimentation. I mean, avocado colored kitchens with burnt orange countertops? Thank goodness all those Polaroid snapshots faded away.

Conversely, this new generation has learned nothing from our brush with potential photographic humiliation. They preserve and distribute the antics of foolish teenagers, wannabe celebrities, and most of the Kardashian family who seem to feel no shame at all in posting photos of themselves in their underwear, or less, and occasionally challenging gravity to a drinking contest.

Now I’m not saying my generation wasn’t just as stupid, misguided, and prone to idiocy as the next. That’s just humans being humans. Heck, when archaeologists uncovered Pompeii, an ancient Roman city frozen in time by a volcanic eruption that encased it in ash, they found a treasure trove of graffiti, most of it too colorful to translate here. Which when you think about it, is not much different than the amazingly graphic, stupendously dumb posts you’ll find on social media today. The main difference is that because Marcus and his girl Spendusa had the good sense to be a live in the pre-pre-PSM era, we know what they had to say, but we have no idea how hopelessly goofy their hairstyles might have been or whether the fashions of 79 A.D. held up over the millennia.

Ugh, Marcus, that tunic is so passe, and who is wearing those ridiculous strappy sandals anymore? Really. Put some pants on, man.

I only wish I could still be here a hundred years hence. I imagine the great museums of the world will be hosting the Andy Warhols of their day, who instead of installing a Campbell’s soup can on a pedestal, will be repackaging memes and Snapchats and online videos to create a new form of art that’s based almost entirely on making fun of those who came before. The Internet Generation finally gets their fifteen minutes of infamy.

Oh, what a laugh I would have. Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to get back to updating my MySpace page. The future awaits.