This week, I’m the one with a question. And it was formed during the last couple of weeks between camp and school, while spending time with my children, my nieces, and nephews and some of my friends’ children. Practically all of them have a tablet, an iPhone, or a gadget of some sort that they either play games on or watch Cocomelon/YouTube on. No, this has nothing to do with parenting, so don’t worry. What I noticed with almost each one of those children is that when something comes on the screen that they don’t want to see, a “boring part,” or a (GASP!) ad, they skip over it. These kids are always swiping right or left. They want to be entertained at all times. They can’t handle it when something bores them. They don’t know what to do.
Some kids and pre-teens today can’t handle something if it’s not “exciting.” My daughter and I were in the car listening to music, and then an ad came on the radio. She wanted to skip it. And she had a hard time understanding that this was live radio and it can’t be skipped. While waiting for our pizza, she complained about boredom and asked me for my phone. Even while I’m shopping for groceries, I’m told, “It’s boring. Can I have your phone?” And I’m not referring to the instances where a desperate mother gives the phone to a “tantrumming” three-year-old in the grocery store to prevent a scene – this article has nothing to do with that. If our younger generation gets rid of boredom by swiping or skipping, then how will they be able to deal with boredom and the fact that life isn’t always fun. How many times have I or other parents heard, “Ugh! That’s boring! I don’t want to do that!” when we suggest something that we feel is fun to keep the kids entertained? And how many times have we all said, “When I was your age, telephones were attached to walls, and all you could do is talk into them without any Facetime and without picking out a ringtone.” During car trips, I find myself saying, “All I did was look out the window and try not to fight with my sister,” when asked the question if one of my children can have a phone or tablet when we are in the car for a drive that takes longer than one minute (and no, I don’t allow tablet/phone watching out of the house. I try to encourage my children to work the kinks out of their necks by encouraging them to look out the window). I can’t blame them. I also wished for a TV or a game to play during long car trips when I was a kid, but I survived without them. This past summer, I found myself saying (more than a few times), “Bubby said she was going to pack up everything and come back to the city if all we did was watch TV in the bungalow. So, I’ll pack up and go to Amish town where they don’t allow TV or phones. GET OUTSIDE!”
My generation and generations that came before actually had to play games that required using your whole body and interacting with others. That’s how our social skills were developed. We weren’t allowed in the house on a nice day or long Shabbos if the weather was gorgeous, because we had to “get out and play.” If there was a boring commercial on or even a boring science teacher, we had to sit our way through it (and possibly learn something). I worry about this younger generation who is used to snapping their fingers and, in an instant, having what they want to appear on their phones or tablets. And I’m not just worried about their social skills, or getting to be hunchbacks because they stare down at the electronic gizmo or their eyes being affected by the light on the screen (well, I am concerned about those things, but they aren’t my main concerns), I’m worried about how this will affect their dating life and their life thereafter.
I’ve read little snippets here and there where people insisted on going on a “coffee date,” so they aren’t forced to spend hours with a date if they feel the match isn’t shayach. Coffee dates cut the short date short by leaving after a half-hour/hour. I read, “It was just boring. Not interesting. I had to disengage ASAP.” Excuse me? You met someone in a coffee shop, spoke to him/her for barely half an hour and you’re bored? You think there isn’t anything more to learn or to even begin to like about this person because after 20 minutes you were ready to “get back to your life?” Do you want all the fun and exciting tales to be told right off the bat? Do they need action 24/7?
Well, guess what? It’s not reality. Reality is sometimes dull and boring and that’s okay. We need some to balance to the bits of excitement we experience. If a friend discusses something you have no interest in, do you ask the friend to move on because you’re bored and roll your eyes or just find a place inside your mind to visit until this boring drivel is over? I was watching “reality TV” and a woman was telling her group of friends how she found out all sorts of information about her husband after he passed away. One “friend” said, “This again? Move on. It’s boring.” The other women looked at her with disbelief. One said something to the effect of, “This is her life we’re talking about. It’s traumatic for her. Sorry if you’re bored; go rent a movie or something.”
How many times have we seen how an Instagram picture of someone’s vacation, a plane trip, swimming with dolphins…have been faked. People feel that they have to fake a glamourous lifestyle, because no one wants to see their boring life. And why are we showing people how we swim or bake bread? Even married life is boring at times. You and your spouse can sit in a room or car together for hours and not say a word to each other; you could be reading, watching a tablet, knitting – and then, when you have children, you pray for those quiet boring moments, and when you are finally lucky to find such a moment, you end up falling asleep. That’s just the way it is.
There are times I have been out in a café/restaurant and was able to spot a couple on a date. I dare say that there have been a couple of instances where one person of the couple picks up a cell phone to either text, email, tweet, post while the companion is talking. Are they listening? Is it okay for them to pick up their phone and not give their full attention to their partner? I realize that people have lives and time stands still for no one. You don’t have to put your phones away forever; but when on a date, try conversation instead of showing your date “something I saw on TikTok.” I received a few emails from men and women who shared the same theme; they were bored on a date, so they began to use Instagram or TikTok to show their date something. They couldn’t find anything to talk about, but they were both interested in watching how a cloud looked like the profile of Donald Trump or how parents recreated a scene from Star Wars with their toddlers?
Is this why relationships don’t last? Is it because we have nothing in common or we get bored of each other easily? Well, how about getting to know someone and giving that person your undivided attention? I realize this can be a whole article in and of itself, but I have heard so many times that the younger generation is more likely to divorce because when the going gets tough or boring, they don’t know how to deal with it except swiping left. They aren’t interested in investing the time and trying to work things out, because there’s another fish in the sea. I wrote that I have heard that – not that I agree with it. But think about it, and not just from a frum standpoint. Does the younger generation “give up” too quickly on relationships?
Take the time to give the person sitting across from you a chance. Don’t we all know a couple who seem like total opposites of each other, yet they are in love and have been for years. You wonder what one sees in the other. They probably took the time to find out about the person and didn’t run when the person said he/she was a taxidermist or a tax accountant. They stayed around and found what they liked. Anything worthwhile takes time. We must invest time if we want to reap the rewards – which are love, marriage, children… Look at who you are with, ask yourself if you can look below the surface or what you can learn about him/her in the half hour or hour you spend with each other. You are just as much responsible for what happens on the date as the person you are with. Use your mouth. If you are talking about a topic that doesn’t interest you, change it. If you are in a store/café/park that you don’t particularly like, then suggest someplace else. Just like you want to skip over the “boring” and move on, so, too, the person may want to move.
There’s so much more to write, but I’m over in my allotted space.
Hatzlachah to you all!