An 18-year-old male human is staying in my house right now. He is very shy around humans, and hasn’t been able to find a job, but doesn’t try very hard. He has no interest in acquiring a car, but has a Smartphone that costs about $100 a month to maintain.
He’s not a bad person at all. He’s good to my animals and has a sense of humor if the joke isn’t too complicated. There’s a lot of work to do around here as I try to prepare for whatever life’s next chapter may be, and I can ask him to help rip up old carpeting or move furniture. The problem is asking him to do anything harder than that.
He is a video game addict. What’s amazing is the change of personality when he’s facing a screen instead of a real person. At first I thought the raucous laughter and swearing was good because he seemed to be having fun…now, after two weeks of it, it’s depressing.
He’s on the phone often but not to look up words, read the news, find out what that weird frog in the yard is, or even talk to somebody. All of his energy is directed toward something that’s not real.
How utterly, totally different he is from me when I was 18. He’s not motivated or proactive or curious about life, books, people, travel, or current events. Imagine having the contents of the Internet at your fingertips at any time, and not using it to look stuff up. We had libraries and books and crappy jobs and junkers and were bursting with adventure even if we had to hitchhike—these kids have World of Warcraft and Facebook and texting. Nobody held our hands or paid our bills (at least not mine). I don’t know how to talk to him or what to say. I can’t stand baby talk and have an extremely difficult time dumbing myself down, but each attempt at conversation has to be prefaced with “do you know who … is? Do you know what a … is? Have you ever heard of … ?” It’s so exhausting I’ve given up. I don’t think his vocabulary is more than a few hundred words. He is also so inarticulate I have to ask two or three times for him to repeat himself.
An excess of video gaming takes a socially awkward person and polishes them until they are completely disabled. It discourages personal growth and enables unworldly kids to remain that way for the rest of their lives. No new life experiences are required, no further knowledge of the world is needed to advance your online character—only more hours in a dark room in front of a vivid screen. In spite of the laughter, it’s very, very sad.
Vacations or road trips or any activity that costs money are no longer a part of my life, and I’m very sorry that I can’t help him explore the area here. But the world outside my door holds much fascination if observed closely. I can’t make another person see it, and I’m tired of trying to explain everything. Because he doesn’t have a car and mine has a standard shift which he can’t drive (of course), he’s stuck in the house. But it doesn’t seem to be an issue because he’s not interested in going out. An 18-year-old without a car is like a fly with no wings.
Whose “fault” is it? Anybody’s? I don’t think so. It’s an aggregate cultural blight, fed by genes, parents, advertising, peer pressure. I was not immune to peer pressure, but my mother was a freak and a loner and absolutely would not allow us to have anything that would have helped us fit in (though we were all long gone by 18). Is this bad or good? Is it the reason I’m such a misfit today? Maybe, but I’m a damn self-sufficient one. This kid is headed to college in the fall to study a subject that couldn’t be more unrealistic for his personality type and future employment. I am sad and embarrassed for our culture, and just about all cultures everywhere.