by Olan Tonsay
Project of the Self
Being called by one’s name, be it a nickname, first name, or surname, is a sure proof of recognition. Many youngsters feel genuinely happy when friends, classmates, teachers, and acquaintances call them by name. It gives them the sense of being “somebody.”
A youngster’s sense of identity is one of the treasured and revered concepts of the self. From childhood to puberty, from teen period to early adulthood, youngsters are expected to build a sense of self. It comes with the building and strengthening of identity. Most youngsters are successful with this project of the “self,” but there are a few who seem to be lost as to who and what they are because of technology.
This is what Danny (not his real name), a grade 9 student from Zambales, is going through. He is an intelligent and smart young man full of potentials at fifteen years old. However, his potential remained untapped. His social life has become static.
His Own World
Danilo, nicknamed Danny, is the eldest among three brothers. He grew up in a conservative and highly traditional family in Sta. Cruz, Zambales. His parents separated when he was eight years old. It was his mom alone who raised him and his brothers and tried to make both ends meet. When he stepped into Grade 7 in junior high school, his mom was forced to work overseas to sustain his schooling and that of his brothers in a Catholic school.
He and his brothers were left to the care of his maternal grandparents. Being the eldest, he was given the brunt of responsibilities at home. In his spare time, he was made to take care of his youngest brother, watch over the house when both of his grandparents were not at home, and often do errands and other menial chores. He was rarely free to have time for himself. He was saturated with concerns that were not his.
Danny found a way to balance things up. There’s a desktop computer at home, and he has a gadget that he brings along with him in school. Thus, the only break he has from the many home and school concerns is to sit for hours googling, playing, and surfing the net. This is the only time he gets to be himself. He has friends in there, but they stay friends only in there too.
He does not have the knack of tidying himself up. Grooming is at the minimum, hygiene at the borderline. Anything concerning himself is done for compliance because he was told to. He does not like the way he looks. His skin tone is darker compared to that of his siblings. His height is shorter than the average 15-year-old Filipino teenager. For him, nobody would notice him for the way he looks.
He does not fare any better in school. He is withdrawn and mingles only with his classmates when there is a reason for him to do so, like engaging in group discussions, projects, and reports. If asked, he would prefer doing it alone, his way. He would eat alone if ever, and for most of the days, he would not eat at all during recess or lunch breaks. He has his crush in school, but he just keeps it to himself. Besides, he thinks no girl would even care to be his close friend or like him.
His lackluster social life in school has made an impression on his academics as well. He would study only to pass. He has been doing this for the past years. He is aware that he can do more and do better, but he is content with just passing his subjects. Danny does not mind all of these; he has his own world to go to.
Think It Over:
1. What is the “root” or main cause of Danny’s condition? Where do you think it all started?
2. Cite the other factors that have led to Danny’s condition.
3. Why was Danny unable to connect socially in school?
4. Do you think withdrawing inward, just like what Danny is doing, would give him a functional life in the future? Why or why not?
5. Why do some youngsters get hooked on computers?
Between Existing and Living
Youngsters these days are enjoying an era of fast-paced living. Everything comes instantly. Technology has made it possible. Instant hot food is available with just a press of a button of the microwave. No-cook, ready-to-eat food comes in cans and doypacks. Beverages, hot and cold, are ready to drink, by just adding cold or hot water.
Assignments are easier to accomplish. In this age of “copy-paste” plagiarism, one does not even need to sit for hours doing some research. This fast-paced techno life has made an impact on the mindsets and even on the lifestyles of many youngsters. Some of them no longer aim to be best; they are content with being just like the rest.
Many young people are content with just being average and mediocre with their skills and abilities. They figure that just doing what is told and accomplishing it, regardless of the quality, will be fine. Doing just enough and complying with the minimum requirement is the lowest level of success.
This trend is further extended to the self in terms of attitude and lifestyle. Many youngsters, not only in our country, have fallen prey to a solitary lifestyle. They make their own worlds in this world. Their lives only revolve in a realm they create. Life for some of them has become touch and go. You are born into this world, you live and die, and that is it.
Members of the cyber generation who got married find it difficult having their own children as these may interfere in or interrupt their lives and career. Many couples have opted to be “babyless” like in Singapore, Japan, and Italy. The majority of the world’s population is growing old. Senior citizens are growing in number while the young are getting fewer. For the first time China allowed two children in families instead of strictly enforcing the one-child policy. The younger generation projected to take care of the old is thinning out.
The cyber trend is minimal in the Philippines for the moment. But it is catching up fast in the youngsters in the Philippines, which is at the forefront of the business outsourcing industry. In time, more will withdraw into solitude. Some will acquire low self-esteem just like Danny as they shun the world. Many of them will become indifferent. They will drift between existing and living. The signs of the times do not bid well.
You live with a purpose; without it, living becomes mere existence. Youngsters must be made aware that there is a “real world” out there which is far better than the “cyber world”. They should avoid being sucked in by technology. Here are some ways of doing so:
Regulate. There’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s the abuse of it that makes it hazardous to the user. Use technology, and do not let technology use you. Regulating the use of computers and other gadgets based on need and not on want is the best way to avoid being enslaved by technology.
Schedule. Appropriate the amount of time when you will use the computer and your gadget. Give it just enough number of hours and minutes so that you know when to stop. Having no schedule makes other youngsters overuse technology. It is not technology that gets abused; it is the user.
Self-control. Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses will enable you to muster and channel your willpower to where it is most needed. In a way, it will empower you to be in control of your self.
Acknowledge who is on top. Knowing who rules over your life will somehow tell you to whom you should give or spend more of your time with. If God is on top of everything, things will turn out well. Knowing his words and understanding them will enable you to prioritize what is more important.
Reflect On These:
1. Cite the factors that may lead to self-imposed isolation by some youngsters.
2. How do you project the trend of social isolation in the Philippines in five years’ time? Why?
3. What are the possible effects of computer overuse on the social life of youngsters? Are you one of those affected? Explain why.
4. Why do some youngsters find it difficult to control their use of computers and other electronic gadgets?
5. As a Christian youngster, what should you do to avoid being caught in a hikikomori-like situation?