Becoming an Adult: More than Ditching the Neon and Wayfarers

When I arrive past the dust of my Millennial youth, I hope I will remember the meat of things as more than neon-tinted vision, text-message based love affairs and rainbow displays of wayfarer sunglasses. Instead of plot lines in a life story, these ephemeral phenomena will set the tone of a realized youth. They’ll serve as the glowing Instagram filter coating the everyday forks in the road. The golden aura lighting this age of possibility. Behind the irreverent tweets and the ever-revolving viral memes, I’ll see not a transition into adulthood. Rather, I’ll see the image of my youth comfortably yet ambiguously straddling the line between digital girl and analog woman.

Where generation priors’ analog woman may be established in reputation, a master of her niche, the digital “girl” may appear fragmented, spread over various social networks. Pinterest boards on jewelry organization, twitter afterthoughts on the white house correspondents dinner, Facebook mobile uploads of an epic sushi dinner. Different mediums call for different correspondence, multiple modes of self-expression. I’ve heard baby boomers say, “I just don’t have the time to keep up with that many outlets.” There is nothing wrong with this statement. It’s a lot to keep up with. But my peers and I don’t really have a choice. For many of us, engaging with this many outlets is not only second nature, it’s something we’ve evolved a need for.

The internet, open-access and the nature of our “beta world” have conjured up an environment foreign to many of our elders. They call my generation the digital natives, and we’ve grown up in a technological petri dish our entire lives. For us, the so-called “digital self” was not a new persona or presence that had to be developed and understood after establishment in the analog world. By the time we had our first AIM screen names, we knew pretty much nothing about the “adult world.” We ventured through adolescence, developing our analog selves alongside our digital.

So for us, developing into an adult is somewhat of a gray area. Qualities that defined adulthood in the past are changing. The foundation of our persons are rooted in a completely different realm than our parents. So the question of youth versus adulthood is a tough one. The line, blurry and obscure. There is some underlying classification of the digital as the eager, progressive, wide-eyed youngen ready for revolution, whereas the analog is a stuffy biz exec, talking at a boardroom, following the standard protocol of a 20th century business model. Neither the digital nor the analog should be constrained to an age group, a limited arena or path. Each has its place in our developing world. But when it comes to our identities, could we possibly be both? Could I at once be a digital woman as easily as an analog girl? Is Instagramming keeping us younger, starry-eyed, and illusioned even longer, past the years of Spring Fair yearning and late-nights in the library? More importantly, is this kind of digital-social behavior hindering our transition into the adult world?

If you ask me, I say no. The virtual realms we interact in everyday are certainly changing how we’re growing into adulthood, but I wouldn’t say they “hinder” our development. The conceptions of leadership, maturity and achievement are changing, and they’re changing conditionally with the ways in which we are actively altering our progression into adulthood. I don’t think posting pictures or making a wise-crack observation about a movie is a sign of self-importance and thus, immaturity. I think it’s an exploration in expression, and signature to this age’s obsession with “sharing.” Sharing feelings, sharing links, sharing e-books, etc. Share I will, while I feel the need; and to be involved in my youth the need feels present. More importantly, it feels like a beautiful time to be a young adult, writing the conditions of our stories as we go along…

Emotional Addicts: Get Your Fix by Remixing Your iPhone App Folders

Once I crossed over into technological adulthood and started organizing my iPhone apps, I couldn’t understand those amateurs who just throw apps around without purpose. I’ve re-organized the system a few times as I acquire more and more apps, but it’s become pretty intuitive which apps fall into Tools versus Information, and which apps get the bonus bump up to Social. As I was about to show a friend my sleek setup, he absolutely upstaged me. After reading an article on verb or action-phrased folder names (Play, Listen, Look Up) versus function-based (Productivity, Social Media) he was inspired to change his folder names to something a bit more intuitive. Games are found in a folder called “Weeeee,” utilities that don’t give him a huge reaction like Calculator or Reminders go in “Meh” (incidentally his largest folder which has yielded also: Meh Vol. 2) Viewing apps like HBO Go and Hulu are labeled “Ahh,” and my personal favorite, social tools like Facebook and Twitter in “Ooh.”

If I categorize my apps this way, I’m literally attaching an emotional response to the software associated with those feelings. The apps on the screen are clustered according to their potential to elicit a mental response. So every time I want that “Ooh” feeling of social connection or digital gazing, my thumb gravitates to that folder. As my muscle memory takes over, I’ll find my physical self navigating to the Ooh folder when I subconsciously want to feel social warmth. If I find another app, a new social tool (say: Instagram) that has that same power, I’ll put it in the Ooh folder. When I’m craving more “Ooh,” I’ll click it again, having not just a new app easily accessible, but a familiar feeling. As this association goes deeper, we become stage 5 clingers to our phones (and in general, technology.) It begins to sound like an addiction doesn’t it? Of course, that’s what happens when we begin to associate our internal emotions with anything external.

We can try to technologically detox. We can give up Facebook for lent, vow to check our e-mail only 3 times a day, and limit mindless trips without direction into the interwebs. We can try. And some will succeed. But the real question is what will grow faster: our willpower? Or the attractiveness of our technologies.