It’s the classic line, repeated now so many times as to become a joke – the old timer telling a youngster “When I was your age…” I have vivid memories from my childhood hearing this all the time from various sources. With that refrain constantly rattling around my head I always looked at things with a certain curiosity, wondering what around me would last and how the world might change.
I always new at some point in my life I would become that old timer, prattling on about the glories of yesteryear. But I didn’t expect it at the age of 27. The reason I bring this up is due to a phrase I overheard the other day. A discussion was being had over that latest must see YouTube video when an older video was referenced and then referred to as on of the classic Internet videos.
Upon hearing this phrase I had to a pause a moment. Has the web now been around long enough that these often shameful clips of stupidity are now classics? Are the so ingrained in the culture, so widely seen and recognized that the early examples can be thought of as the forebears to today’s unlimited stream of viral clutter? The video in question was “Star Wars Kid”. Is that video so groundbreaking, so seminal in the annals of Internet videodom that it’s now the ‘Citizen Kane’ of web videos or I suppose more aptly the ‘Star Wars’ of web videos?
It just seems strange to me to label a viral video a ‘classic’. In years to come will people analyze YouTube in classrooms and lecture halls? Will some bespectacled overeducated professor tell a room full of young minds that “everything changed after Star Wars Kid. If it wasn’t for that we never would have had Chocolate Rain.” Or will tomorrow’s youth have no idea about it, because of the ever-increasing amount of new content?
If it is indeed a “classic” will they one day say “Oh yeah, Star Wars Kid. I’ve heard of it, never seen it though”, as so many today refer to Casablanca or Hitchcock or anything to do with John Wayne. That does seem pretty unlikely if for nothing else than the fact it’ll always be on the Net somewhere. But will people take the few minutes to view “classic viral videos”? It’s that last notion, of people talking about the videos that were so prominent to me as something to know of but not actually know which makes me feel like that Old Timer.
I suppose some of these feelings stem from being part of the last generation to straddle the advent of the Internet. I can still very easily recall the days before computers and the web, but young adults just half a dozen years my junior aren’t so familiar with those times. Which may not be that remarkable a concept, but it does feel weird to feel old or I should say to feel of a different time when talking with those who are considered in my age demographic. I never thought that I would be able to date myself so easily at the age of 27, but when say I’m at a party and spill a drink or step on a foot and then respond in my best Urkel voice with “did I do that?” and draw nothing but blank stares it’s hard not to notice.
It is no secret that today’s youth are over inundated with media from multiple sources, altering the way they are growing up and the experiences they have. What hits home for me are the specific encounters I’ve had that illustrate this point and usually result in me shaking my head. On the rare occasion I find myself talking with a teenager or more commonly having to listen to them on the bus, I often find myself wanting to interrupt and tell them something that starts with “Well when I was your age…”
The idea of a ‘classic’ Internet video may have got me thinking about it but that phrase is by no means the only instance of generational shift. Not so long ago I was strolling through a park when I was passed by a mob of 10-year olds. One of them had come to the park with his nanny but wanted to run off with the other kids and do whatever it is they do these days. So off he ran yelling back over his shoulder at his nanny that he would text her when he was ready to go home. That’s right text her. He was 10.
There was another time last summer I was going up the Grouse Grind. There were three or four early teen boys ahead of me. As I caught up to and them passed them I heard a snippet of their conversation. They were discussing so video game and how to get to a certain level. One of them, when pressed for information, revealed that he had beaten some wizard/giant ape/terrorist by Googling some game codes. At the moment I so wanted to lean over and tell those kids “you know, when I was your age we used to have to buy books that told us about the secret codes and levels of video games.” I didn’t. In part because I was on the Grind and not exactly full of wind to lecture some kids and also because I was afraid of getting tangled up in a discussion about the laziness of using Google to pass video games or having to explain what I meant by ‘books’, because that really would have dated me.