In 1967, a very famous movie called The Graduate came out. It was about a young man named Ben who graduated from college, but in his angst, he refused to get a job. He lived at home with his well-to-do parents and simply hung out. (He also allowed himself to get involved in an inappropriate relationship, but that is another story.) The young graduate worried his parents greatly; they could not figure him out. 

The Graduate appeared at a very turbulent time in America. The children of World War II veterans were old enough to enter college. Many students who grew up in the upper middle class and had time on their hands identified with Ben. More and more were finding themselves anxious and not wanting to work. Many of these younger people flocked to the movie. They could identify with Ben. 

They connected with the boredom and underlying anxiety in Ben’s life. Many of them did not want to work. The irony of all this is that millions of young people paid millions of dollars to escape in the fantasy of a movie that featured the acting of some very hardworking young actors who went on to have very productive careers. They worked hard at their jobs and became very successful. 

That is not lost on me now, as I think about how many young people are disengaged from jobs because they spend so much time looking at their phones. They watch Netflix and other streaming services or videos like TikTok. And, as Dr. Phil says, they grow anxious watching other peoples’ lives while they create no lives of their own. Meanwhile, these actors and influencers work very hard to create fantasies for the phone. They work hard and creatively. And oh, by the way, many make good incomes.

It’s crucial for young people to shift their focus from others’ lives to their own. Many ‘baby boomers’ of the past eventually realized this, transitioning into productive adulthood. My hope is that today’s youth, regardless of age, can also grasp this concept, learning to work hard, be productive, and ultimately, create meaningful lives for themselves…instead of living vicariously through smartphones lives that do not even exist.

Author of Holy Chaos: How To Walk with God in a Frenzied World

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