Identity Crisis: Finding Oneself in the Digital World

 So my wife (feeling a bit of nostalgia) popped the original Legend of Zelda into the game console today, and my six-year-old daughter, Lily, excited because she’s seen the newer versions of this game, replied, “Oh, is that what it looks like? Yuck.”  “It looks like it was from the nineties,”  Actually, Lily, it was released 1987 in America, not that historical context means much to you, as you are SIX and have no idea what life was like even before Obama was president!!

Anyways, it dawned on me, that this is our generation’s, “In my day, we had to walk ten miles to school through two feet of snow.”  Instead we’ve substituted these lines, “Well, in my day, we had to blow on the cartridge, hope it registered, than watch as 2048 bytes of RAM (that’s 2KiB, almost 33,000 times smaller than the amount of memory in a standard iPhone 4) propel as many as 25 different colors onto the screen at the same time, that is, as long as you had an RF modulator to plug into the cable input in the back of our big bulky CRT televisions.”   Those of you who had a Nintendo NES, you understand this scenario.  I actually started with an Atari 2600, which looks a little like the shock therapy machine Bill Murray used to torture nerdy guys and woo attractive women in Ghostbusters.  

Yeah, we had it rough.  We still have it rough. 
No Child left behind comic
Being a teacher; this is only too true.  
They say that the millennial generation (born 1980-1994) is now lacking more money for basic needs than any other age bracket in America.  We are laden in debt.  I pay over $600 dollars a month in college loans for the fancy degrees that I still struggle to find a job in the related fields.  I don’t regret going to college; I learned a lot of interesting factoids, listened to some really opinionated socially inept professors, and wrote a lot of five page papers that I don’t remember whatsoever.  Still, it forced me to buckle down and play the game of life, jump through the various hoops to get to where I want to be. 

And yet, career wise, I’m still not there.  I’m not the great success I hoped to be sixteen years ago when walked out of my high school with a paper diploma I knew meant nothing to the modern pixilated world. 

But does that matter?  As a man, I’m inclined to believe that my self-worth is constantly linked to my career path, or stock portfolio (oh, to actually have one of those), or professional title next to my name.  But my continual pride crushing career experiences have gradually convinced me that I’m important because of the other variables that make me who I am.  My daughters love me, even If I don’t buy them a PS3 and constantly make fun of their princess fairyland dreams.  My wife kinda likes me, even though I’m incredibly messy and continually annoy her with my weird humor (which does deserve more than the smirking smile she gives me after all these years).  My family still calls me, and so do my few close friends.  And we can all go out and have a good time without the need for alcohol or drugs or expensive outtings.  Overall, I guess you could say, I am happy.  What a strange concept, happiness.  Some of that may  be attached to my belief system, which is not of this material world, but overall, with all the smack and putdowns and pitfalls life has thrown my way: some deserved, some not, I still feel like a success because the majority of my days are filled with aspects of happiness. 

Happiness, comes at a cost though.  The Amish are happy.  And while I’m not willing to start helping my neighbors raise barns, I have given up some of my reliance of all things digital.   I stopped playing video games because they weren’t making me happy.  Even though I’m one of the best gamers of all time, It means nothing.  No video game accolades ever made me feel like a better person. Yes, that is the golden AK-47, and yes, I am a level ten prestige COD player: which translates to exactly zero societal value.  
"Mom, I'm 27 years-old, could you please knock on the
garage door before entering my space!"

And Money hasn’t done much:  I made more money a few years ago, doing a job I hated, and the money didn’t buy anything more than more trips to the doctor, more complaints about stress, and feeling like I should be doing more work, to make more money, to further my career.  The money has been tight since then, maybe I miss it ($), but I don't miss what I had to do to earn it.  

So yes, I…we, have it rough, our generation in this time.  It’s hard to find good work, good pay, or any benefits.  It’s hard to take a vacation, both monetarily and time-wise.  It’s hard to find an identity in the myriad of anonymity and animosity that the internet has falsely convinced us it holds the key to.  It’s hard to find authenticity in anything, as facts are so manipulated by agendas and creative internet presentations.  It’s hard to not just look for entertainment; escapism from the 9-5, the problems of real life and real people, and not live vicariously through other people on screen, or digitalized on a game, where the outcome is almost always happy and the characters heroic. 
So then there’s people.  Real flesh and blood humans with all their flaws and garbage and problems and character flaws and issues.  To some, people are too hard to invest in, too hard to deal with, too hard to empathize with, cause they just can’t seem to get it together.  But I’m learning to realize that “getting it together” or “monetary success” or “making good decisions” are issues we all are struggling with.  I’m hoping I can continue to look past these silly ideas of success and focus on each person as a person.  I hope maybe I can be a cog in their wheel of happiness; cause each human in my life, my kids, my wife, my parents and family, my friends, my co-workers, even some people I don’t particularly like, all are pieces of the machine-work that make me happy, and hence, prosperous.   
I think I'm missing a piece or two.  Is that going to have an effect?  


  1. Like the photo above, I too game online with a bowling glove for my mouse hand and keep a knife near my case the characters on screen reanimate themselves through the monitor, or if my Swanson's microwave country fried steak needs cut up smaller.

  2. Plumbed Down, great post...And some really good factoids, too!

  3. Thanks Mom. Hey everyone, if you like good artistry, hit her screen-name above, and it links directly to her really cool art website.

  4. Justin LindemannJuly 18, 2012 at 3:02 AM

    Newsweek has a feature that nicely coincides with your posting:

    Well said, Chris! Thanks!

  5. Your "In my day" analogy made me laugh. Remember our TVs? With knobs, no remotes, no tv guide channel/schedule grid, and all our favorite shows cancelled if the president was giving a speech. My girls also talk about the 90s as if they happened a hundred years ago.

  6. I'm impressed that Lily knows what something from the nineties looks like.

  7. Chris, you're a fun read. Way too clever.

    When Pong came out, I was amazed that I could change what happening on the t.v. screen, and my skills have remained about the same.

  8. By the way, the Pong reference was from Janet Wells. Still trying to figure out how to sign into your blog.

  9. Chris, thanks for the kudos. Couldn't figure out how I got so many hits from plumbed down until I read your comment and saw my painting on your site. Can't wait to read more of your zany and provocative thoughts.

  10. Good thoughts, Chris. I like the focus on what really gives value and what truly brings happiness. And no, it is not spending hours upon end in front of a screen.