Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Sad Commentary On Today's College Students

I read this story with considerable worry when it first broke a few days ago.

If you don't want to read the whole thing, it essentially says that college students prefer their iPods to beer.

Yeah, I cried too.

If the people at the Ridgewood, NJ based market research firm Student Monitor are to be believed, the college student of today prefers a sterile wafer of plastic and circuit boards to the fermented perfection of Mother Nature's awesome bounty.

What this says to me is that college students of today are in real trouble. Those of us who have been to college (and some of us who never intend to leave, really) know that drinking beer is a social event. It gets people together, out of the house (sometimes) and into each other's company. There is no better way to get to know people than over several glasses of that earthen-toned liquid that pours in a generous river from our great nation's heartland.

With the beer and friends ultimately comes great conversation, talk of issues great and small. It can be about sport, politics, work, personal life experiences, bawdy jokes and cunning comebacks. It is the very milk of society, the very basis of what's best about being human. We have no word for it in English, but in Irish it is craic and in German it is Gemutlichkeit. It is the great feeling of elation brought on by good drink, friends and conversation.

Listening to an iPod is none of these things. It is perhaps the complete opposite. Once the headphones are plugged into the ear canal, the listener is cut off from the outside world and any interaction from others. What world to they enter? A self-constructed world of disjointed playlists wherein only the listener him/herself can partake in the goings-on.

I have no problem with self-gratification (by which I mean making oneself happy...minds out of gutter, now). What I take issue with is the way that, as with the cellular telephone, it cuts people off from each other and becomes a constant companion and obsession, like the constantly fingered fetishes and amulets of bygone, superstitious days (they are gone, right?). They become the only focus as one glides through life blissfully unaware of the real "flowers of life" (to quote the late, great Lord Buckley): people.

This shows that the college student of today is more interested in pleasing themselves than in interacting with other people. If all drinkers were like this, we would all be sullen, jittery alcoholics alone with the bottle as we let out the evil spirits and confront our darkest personal reaches alone. That is why alcohol is best enjoyed with friends. It is this interaction with other people that makes the experience one of sociability rather than dependency.

This story speaks volumes about the human condition, at least among college students. Not allowed to have fun anymore, jammed into impossible schedules and self-imposed academic and social strictures, they become socially frightened cenobites, fearing for their future at the expense of their present.

Sliding down the razor blade of life is tough enough without people who have no idea how to let go every now and again. Oh, to those of you who will doubtless say that I (and those like me) should just workout or pray or something to let off steam, I say bullshit. They are not the same thing, never will be (for reasons discussed above) and, in any event, stop telling me how to live.

So, college students of the world, if a large, Irish-looking gentleman walks up to you, yanks your iPod out of your ears, pours beer all over it and hands you the rest of the six-pack, just take the beer and thank him later in your own way. He has freed you and opened up your ears in more ways than one. Oh, and he likes Blatz.


Matt Jenks said...

This would go really well on the last page of "All About Beer" magazine. I'll start bugging Julie and see if she'll make it so.

One thing that, perhaps, we might be overlooking is who did these people call? Did they take their survey from places like Grace College (although I doubt Grace allows their students to have iPods...the Devil's music can lurk on there!)? Or did they call kids at places like St. Joe, and just happen to find folks of the mindset of NAVCO (the Non-Alcoholic Vertically Challenged Organization)?

Still, it's sad that something like this can even be said. You speak eloquently of an era gone by. Some of my most cherished moments came, not saturated with alcohol, but certainly with beer-in-hand.

How better to witness the death of Bruce the Plant or melt Hessian Snipers on rocks stolen from a cheap motel in Bloomington, IN, than with a mug of sweet, sweet ale (or lager) in front of us? No better way.

And I'll remember that Blatz thing.

Aaron Cynic said...

Ah how times are a changing... I speculate that this might be part of the much larger shift that's been happening throughout the years. College seems to be increasingly more about preparing for the "adult world" than finding out what kind of "adult" you might be. Seems the kids are more interested in keeping the blinders on, focused only on their highly specialized majors, lamenting classes that may not have anything to do with whatever their degree is supposed to be. Much like keeping the ipod on and only heading off to the parties where they know everyone, they punch the clock through their grades and end up wedging themselves into a cubicle, a marriage, kids...Whatever happened to the traveller, the adventurer, the wanderer - the guy who can drift to and fro different social circles, enjoying frosty pints of amber and learn about different circles, and himself? More pints with more people and we'll have more interesting things to say. Less pints with less people and we drift further apart into our psuedo gated subdivisions.

Mind if I use this one for an upcoming zine I've got coming out called Racanteur (Vices Make My Life More Interesting II)? It would fit like a glove...

Lost A Sock said...

Well said. And though I read the article, I am still having difficulty wrapping my mind around the image of a college kid sitting on his $20 green and brown couch, happily listening to ear buds on a Saturday night. Maybe he attends a school with a dry campus? (Hahahahaha)

All that said, it could be simply that ipods are so popular right now, just as they sited the internet topping beer at one point.

Frema said...

I know some people who've had pretty horrible things happen to them in college due to being intoxicated, so this article doesn't bother me at all. Drinking will always be a popular pastime among college students, but it worries me when it's their favorite.

Also, while I've had plenty of good conversations with people over drinks, I've also been subjected to monologues rolled off the tongues from those Ahead Of Their Time, who talk because they love to hear themselves talk.

(Can you tell I'm not a beer drinker? :)