This morning, a sweet friend and Chi Omega sister asked me for the link to “The 3 Things I Gave Up That Made Me Happier,” a blog post I wrote back in September about giving up Facebook, cable TV, and celebrity gossip. Re-reading that post goes hand in hand with the book I’m currently reading: The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein. The subtitle is How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. I absolutely love the book so far, and Bauerlein stirs feelings of anger and hatred within me. I’m about to get real with you! If you’re ready for some brutal honesty in your day, please read on.
The book tells us that we waste our time mindlessly surfing the Internet and watching terrible TV. We need to be reading. The only way to learn about the world around us is to read. Because we spend our free time doing unproductive, terrible things, Americans are now the dumbest we’ve ever been. Bauerlein is not sugar coating it, and I don’t want to, either.
I can see evidence of the dumbest generation all around me every single day. My friends are Tweeting about some worthless celebrity or some worthless reality television show, but they have no idea what’s happening in our country politically or in other countries around the world. My students can’t remember who Aristotle was, when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, or the context of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. If you don’t know about current events and about history, you should be ashamed of yourself. People today do not feel guilty about being stupid. It’s certainly not a good thing to be uneducated and uninformed, but it’s even worse to be careless about it. You should care that you are a complete idiot.
There is one simple you can do to be a smarter, better person: read. This was my New Year’s Resolution for 2011 and will continue to be my most important goal in 2012. I’m most certainly a part of “The Dumbest Generation,” but I fight as hard as I can to claw my way out of the trenches of stupidity. Three suggestions will enable us to read more, and these three suggestions are my personal goals and objectives; I work on these as hard as I possibly can. It’s a struggle for me. It’s difficult. Why is it so hard to follow the simple guidelines below? Because it’s much easier to just be stupid.
1) Read for two solid hours every single day. We need to read actual books. We need to spend more time reading than we do watching television. We need to spend more time reading than we do on Facebook. We need to read more than just Sophia Kinsella; useless chick lit about shopping only contributes to us being the dumbest generation to ever live. We need to read history. We need to read biographies. We need to read the classics. We need to read about art and civics and technology. We need to read so much that we actually know things. You don’t like to read? You’re an idiot. You should be ashamed to be an idiot.
This is a constant battle for me because I don’t schedule regular reading time. I try to combat this by reading before bed every single night. It rarely happens. I also always carry a book around with me. Instead of getting on my phone when I’m bored, I read. Every extra minute of reading per day helps make us smarter.
2) Give up television. ”According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day” (Source). If you watch 4 hours of TV every day, you are lazy and stupid. We do not have to be an inactive, apathetic, disgusting slobs! We can be smarter and healthier. We can turn off The Jersey Shore and Keeping Up with the Kardashians and anything on VH1.
We need to attach a stigma to watching terrible television. We need to reevaluate our stance on TV watchers from one of acceptance to one of disgust. Every hour we spend watching useless garbage is an hour we spend becoming stupider. After an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we should feel bad about ourselves. It is a disgrace!
This is an issue for me because there are TV shows I absolutely love. My favorites are Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, and Law & Order. To combat my love for TV, my husband and I got rid of cable two years ago. I haven’t missed it for a single day. Giving up cable is the first step to curbing our addiction to TV. It’s also the first step to being a smarter person. On a side note, my husband and I also spend more time exercising, so the benefits of no TV lead to both mental and physical excellence.
3) Eliminate Facebook. People protest, “I need Facebook!” Actually, you don’t. I’ve been Facebook free for 6 months, and it was the best decision I made in 2011. There is nothing we are getting from Facebook that we can’t get from someplace else, and more harm than good comes from the social networking site. We could make the commitment to growing (mentally) and to becoming more intelligent, but we make the choice just mindlessly Facebook. Why? Because it’s easier to be dumb.
While I recommend deactivating your Facebook right now, I realize most people insist on keeping their FB accounts for whatever nonsense reason. Examples of nonsense reasons I’ve heard recently include “I need it for work!” ”I need it to keep in touch with my family!” ”I’ve had some great rewards come from Facebook!” Try a Facebook Fast instead. Deactivate your account for six weeks. Make a serious commitment to not logging on a single time for six solid weeks… no cheating! If you feel that you’re missing a large, core portion of your life, log back on after the six week Facebook Fast ends. I promise: Facebook will keep everything right where you left it with everything in its place. My bet? After six weeks, you realize the absolute improvement in your quality of life and never go back. Deactivating Facebook changed my life. There is no doubt about it, and I will say it again, deactivating Facebook is the greatest decision I made in 2011.
What are some ways you think we can improve our mental capacity and transform back into intellectuals from our current status as “The Dumbest Generation?”