Happy recipient as I am of all the benefits of the wonderweb and mobile phones, I am so glad I remember a time before them and grew up before the world became so overly-complicated and in a country where there were only three channels on the television, four, if you were lucky, and the latest episode of a certain soap or drama series was a shared talking point at school or work the following morning.
Real life bullying at school was bad enough. I cannot imagine what cyber-bullying must be like. Rejection by boys who knew very little about girls was bad enough. But to be rejected by a boy with precocious intimate anatomical knowledge of the female body who expects all girls to resemble (and behave like) his favourite female porn star must be awful. I really feel for the pressures young people today find themselves under on top of the normal turmoils of growing up. Horror stories of internet grooming or girls pressured to text naked photos of themselves to the boy they fancy, only to find out they have been circulated to the whole school for their public humiliation are particularly awful, and have even led to suicides on the part of the victims.
In addition youngsters are growing up in a world where debt is normal, binge-drinking is normal, drug taking is almost normal, gambling is normal, the divorce rate is running at nearly 50% and first jobs in shops and hairdressers to cut their working teeth on are almost non-existent, let alone opportunities when they leave school or university. To top it all they've missed most of the best music and films, despite the plethora of channels and multimedia now at their fingertips, though at least they have a 'watch again' facility on most of it.
My childhoood was by no means a bed of roses, but I treasure the memory of simpler and more innocent times when my teen self was allowed to finish growing up naturally, fantasising over unobtainable pop stars. There was no expectation to dress as a hooker or drink gallons when going to a nightclub. We literally went for the music and to have a dance and a laugh, and maybe meet a nice boy and end the evening with a snog. No one I knew would have slept with a boy on a first date and we would have been branded 'a slag' if we had, not just by the boy in question, but the whole town in general. Nothing is a secret in a small town.
The world becoming more complicated has also enabled us to be more easily hoodwinked, by complicated financial products for example, or even just convinced into buying products that we don't actually need. It has enabled our details to be more readily collected and sold and our bank details scammed (you'll never catch me using my mobile phone for or making a 'contactless' payment). Those of us who remember a time before the electronic world are better positioned to challenge the new world order. Internet addiction also inevitably takes choice away. One day you will have to create 'an account' to do absolutely everything. There will no longer be a real life post office to obtain a passport application or buy a stamp from. Banks will get their way and banish the cheque book. Everything will be online and very little will still be available for purchase in real life. Anyone not online or fully IT literate will be marginalised in our society. Self-service tills are part of the rot of a dehumanisation I for one never voted for.
My sentiment for real life has pulled me out of the fog of internet addiction many a time, but what pulls those who don't remember a time before it away from the screen to value their real lives at least equally, if not above their virtual lives? I find it ironic to observe attractive young people on trains completely ignoring potential suitors by being glued to their iPods, tuning the world out to their possible future detriment by leaving no window of opportunity for a conversation to strike up. But why risk meeting someone in real life? Isn't that what online dating is for? Screening people out has just become part of the process more literally.
Personally, I have now reached electronic saturation point. Kindles, games, apps, ipods and ipads hold no appeal. I possess a smart phone (for the 8.5 megapixel camera and large screen) but use fewer than 30% of its functions and get annoyed by all the things it tries to do when I am not looking like surfing the net at random or changing my text messages to unintended words as I am composing them. I simply don't want to be glued to a screen 24/7, however high the resolution. I want to read real books and real newspapers and feel them in my hands. I want to watch real DVD's, not downloads (how do you exchange downloads or ebooks as Christmas and birthday presents anyway?) I want to choose my own groceries. I will look something up if I need to know it, I will order something if I cannot find it in a real-life shop and I like blogging and email (and occasionally Facebook), but that's it. I order almost nothing from Amazon as I don't agree with their tax-dodging and the way they treat their staff. I did find the most amazing shower curtain and bedding from another supplier online the other day though (pictured) - something I would never find in my local high street. Ironically it doesn't seem to be available from its online shop however, so even the internet has its limits!