Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The War on Daydreams

I've always been a daydreamer. As a little kid, I could happily lose myself for hours in long narrative reveries, stories of adventure and excitement in which I played a pivotal role. That's not to say I didn't do standard kid schtuff. My room was littered with little plastic soldiers, and I watched my share of Ultraman. I enjoyed toys, sure. But my imagination was a joyous playground of endless riches. Long car trips were an impossible delight, as I'd tune out completely, disappearing into a world of my own creating.

I'm mostly past that. Mostly. Although Lord knows that skillset is sometimes the only thing that makes Beltway commuting tolerable.

I'm not sure if kids are allowed to do that any more. I watch how the lives of children are now, and see how completely filled their every moment can be with prefabricated and predigested industrial entertainment. Cartoon Network and Wii and DS can follow them everywhere, can be present in every instant. Screens inhabit bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms and rec rooms. They glow from on the backs of airline seat headrests. They pop down from the ceilings of minivans and SUVs. The iPod touch sits in their pockets, quietly lurking, it's drive filled with hyperkinetic eye candy. Our constant-on entertainment culture fills every nook and cranny of their lives.

And if every moment is filled with the possibility of watching product or playing product, at some point I think they might forget even how to daydream at all. Those wonderful Walter Mitty moments will be washed away, as their cortexes rewire themselves to hunger for incessant external input. Their minds will cease to produce, and be reset to consume, flitting from one shiny infobauble to the next.

It will prepare them to be constant-motion, plugged-in-but-disengaged, intellectually indolent adults. They'll be nice, compliant consumers in the new world run by corporations.

It's all part of the plan, baby. All part of the plan.