Christopher Reeve's death - while no doubt an important moment in history - was not a defining moment of our time. It wasn't a moon landing. It wasn't Sept. 11. The man who played Superman died.
A few days ago, a friend of mine was explaining why CNN.com was the homepage on her computer. She said she made the change after learning about Reeve's untimely death five months after it actually happened. She didn't know about it because she didn't have a homepage or an RSS feed to ram it down her throat. At the time, this struck me as perfectly normal. And it is - at least for us.
When I say "us," I'm speaking about our generation. Fellow Daily columnist Karl Stampfl mused in his column Monday about our how generation should remain nameless (The unnamed generation, 03/24/2008), but I don't quite agree with his assertion that diversity or globalization will be our generation's legacy.
After reading Karl's column, what my friend said about Reeve's death kept ringing in my head. Then it hit me: There was something inherently generational about our exchange. We don't seek out information. Instead, it walks up and smacks us in the face. We don't even notice it anymore. A breaking news ticker on ESPN.com no longer screams "Read me!" but quietly mumbles "Guess what, that WNBA score you probably don't care about is ready."
The $6 million, save-the-world question is this: How the hell do you sift through all the distractions and nonsense? The nearly $1 billion answer is this: Adderall. Or Ritalin. Or whatever wonder drug suits your pharmacological needs. A new University study says roughly 20 percent of college students use prescription drugs. There are more non-prescribed users of Adderall and Ritalin than users with prescriptions.
I mean, shit, I'm on Adderall right now. I have a prescription for it and need it to do work (I actually have Attention Deficit Disorder) but still, I'm flying. For those of you straight shooters, you're just as hopped up as we pill-poppers are: your coffee, Red Bulls, Diet Cokes, green tea and ginseng replace our dextroamphetamines. Even my 13-year-old brother drinks a cup of coffee before school. We're all speed freaks.
When someone tells you our generation has no identity, you tell that person that we are a single beating heart. That single heart just happens to be beating a million times per minute because it's cracked out on Ritalin.
On the positive side our hyperactivity has increased our productivity. Yet, I can't quite shake the feeling that for all the countless hours spent on blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia, our energy is a bit misdirected. It has led to such odd phenomena as "Wikipedia Syndrome," my term for someone who spends countless hours on Wikipedia looking up useless shit but couldn't tell you what day it is.
Our generation seems like it has no idea what's going on. We're the kids who can't figure out where Iraq is. We're responsible for pageant queens who say Africa stole our maps. Yet we are still going at 400 miles per hour all the time. Something is wrong here.
The quest for knowledge is dead. We can search Wikipedia all we want for information, but that doesn't make us more knowledgeable, especially when we forget what we read two minutes later. Even then, are we really seeking out any of that information? Speed killed our curiosity. In an age of information overload, it's easy to get information. There's so much out there, we can't possibly be expected to want to know all of it. We've been told all our life that we'll never know everything, but no other generation has had that fact driven home as hard as we have. No drowning man ever asked for a sip of water.
Even our response has been fleeting. No one cares what we think - unless you read our blogs (which no one does, so shut up). Our irrelevance to our elders is deafening. Unlike other generations, we have ignored older generations as they cast fearful glances below at our speed-crazed ascent to adulthood. The Baby Boomers - The Worst Generation in my book - hold The Greatest Generation up toward the heavens. We just don't give a shit.
Maybe that's our most redeeming quality. In our generation's stimulant-fueled drive, the normal among us have tuned out the criticism from above. We aren't whining, kicking and screaming at older generations like our parents did in the 1960s. We speak only to each other, quietly biding our time until we rise to power.
We might even do something productive once we're there.