Apparently, that phrase is becoming more usual nowadays. As an article of The Guardian journal mentioned, three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. It is certainly a shocking headline.
But, I do ask myself:
Do we really need to spend so much time outdoors as our parents did back at their youth?
Personally, I have considered this question seriously as in my childhood I was that kind of child: a nerdish introvert that didn’t personally enjoy people agglomerations, nor many foolish comments / attitude among children of my age, and this situation led me to have few friends to really rely on. Honestly, the activity I felt like the least doing was to do some ‘sunbathing’, because my skin would easily get burnt in a relatively small time of sun exposure. Another thing that didn’t really please me was to have to consume ‘mainstream “drugs”‘ to socialize, such as alcohol or cigarettes.
However, having seen the evolution the IT has boosted in this 6-7 years period, as well as the increasing need to feel ‘permanently connected’ the whole day, I wonder if there are more children nowadays like I was back at that time.
I won’t be defending that hanging out is useless, futile, …, because that would be nothing but a stupidity, as we, people, tend to generate some social basis interacting with the environment surrounding us by using gestures, games, laughter, cry, songs, etc. But it seems to me that some of the things that could exclusively be done at the street can now be … replaced. A clear example of this phenomenon is the communication.
I will consider my own case, because I think it might be some kind of antecedent of what’s happening nowadays. When I was a teenager, I did spend a HUGE amount of time to a MMORPG (a.k.a. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), and I do admit it made me ‘lose’ a good amount of my time (but this is quite questionable, though).
In fact, what I wanted to find in these games was a comfortable reality: a reality where I had the chance to choose what I wanted to do; a place, where (ironically) I had the feeling of doing useful stuff; a reality where I could talk to people without any kind of age prejudice at all. It was quite curious to be considered as a 25-30 year-old man when I was nothing but a 15 year-old teen, having the chance to have intelligent conversations with some users that made me understand the life better.
Anyway. I get the point of many parents telling to their children that ‘they should go out more often’, and I don’t think it might be a bad idea. But, we shouldn’t be thinking that the street’s reality is the only reality that exists. Quoting Ortega y Gasset, ‘Yo soy yo y mis circunstancias’, which literally means ‘I am me and my circumstances’. So, if a child has more information sources via IT than via ‘physical reality’ and doesn’t really need to go out, why should it go out? Before, it was quite obvious: play with the friends, talk to them, gossip with them, etc. But now, you can do all these things using the computer at your home.
As a matter of fact, virtual reality and augmented reality are gaining more importance nowadays. So, if we are listening to some parents about the ‘lack of sociality’ their children are showing, we will certainly have a trouble when VR headgears like Oculus Rift or Magic Leap become mainstream. At that moment, we will hardly distinguish the reality we live on.
So, the purposedly unanswered question would be: Blue Pill or Red Pill?
[Originally written at April 27th, 2016]