Monday, February 4, 2008

What has happened to the youth of today

Here's the thing. Professors like me try to connect with our students on the level of the mass culture with which they are presumably in tune, and with which we occasionally come into glancing contact. We like to throw the odd pop culture reference in there to show that we have not completely retreated to our ivory towers.

And when we talk about the culture in which we believe our students to be immersed, we talk about TV. Because the kids watch TV all the time, unlike us. That is what defines the difference between our generation and theirs.

But here's the thing. College students don't watch TV.

We should know this. Did we watch TV when we were in college? No, we did not. There was no time. We didn't spend our evenings in the lounge (or these days, in our dorm rooms) absorbing show after show. We were out doing stuff, socializing, going to parties, studying, working. TV is a home thing. It's not a dorm thing.

And so every time I ask students about the TV they watch, I get the same response: "I used to watch a lot of TV, but I don't anymore." This just after I've made some intended-to-be-current reference to 24 or Project Runway. Blank looks.

Today I asked my writing class who watched the Super Bowl. 20% watched it. 40% watched a few minutes here and there. 40% didn't watch any at all because they were at their jobs.

The Super Bowl. The one television event when even people who don't watch television, watch television. And college students don't watch it.

Exactly what mass media phenomena am I supposed to reference to connect with the kids these days?


Mark said...

If it's anything like those I'm around, it's YouTube and Facebook. And Family Guy, the existence of which I refuse to acknowledge.

Doc Thelma said...

Harry Potter.


Paul C. said...

Your students might watch TV if your school had a Division I football program. That is, unless they scored tickets to the games.

Paul C. said...

Also... Family Guy. UGH.

Eric Grubbs said...

Exactly what mass media phenomena am I supposed to reference to connect with the kids these days?

The Onion. :-)

Anonymous said...

So true; they don't watch and neither did we, for good reason.

You might have them pick a few shows they have to follow for the course.

Anything online or on Facebook.

Terry Wright does so much with popular culture in class--he's probably the guy to talk to about what they're watching/reading/seeing.

W.E.B. Adamant said...

Like Mark said, the main thing is going to be Family Guy - at least as one thing we've all seen. We all watch [adult swim]. We just won't admit it.

But I would say video games. It's an interactive play to the grueling work, right? We want something that we can tamper with and affect and achieve. Not something that is idle.

I don't read anymore. I used to watch TV. I'm mostly online now. Actually, you might ask your class about the presidential race. A lot of us are following it very closely because of its semblance to a reality TV show that gets better and better. We're just waiting for someone to deck someone else.

This is the year for youth involvement, it seems. That may be a good well to tap, eh?

Trogdor the Burninator said...

I think your best bet is online fads. Only a subset watches Family Guy. A smaller subset plays video games. But nearly everyone has at least a peripheral knowledge of the funniest online trends. If they don't do it themselves, they have friends who do...and friends don't let friends not see viral videos or lolcats.

Check out Mr. Paul's avatar, for chrissake.

r. harrison said...

back in my college days (circa 2004ish)...Stewart and Colbert reigned supreme. best bet these days is to watch one of those terrible vH1 shows about the "20 biggest internet hits" and go from there. star wars kid. tila tequila. you know.

r. harrison said...

also of note, my post-college tv-watching friends see to watch a lot of Grey's Anatomy. And Family Guy ...and Scrubs, too, now that it's syndicated.

p.s. Do you think the writer's strike had an impact on all of this?