Thursday, March 27, 2014

A generation 'like' no other

    I want to poke a little fun with no harm intended. I usually write concisely like a focused tightrope walker deadheading to the other end of the cable. Not so this week. I am stretching words out like a rubber band gone soft from overuse.
    Like I said in my Livingston County News column (“Chasing the Wind”) two weeks ago, instant gratification is bringing current society, especially youth, scrambling to their knees.


     Meet the “like” generation, also referred to as the millennial agers. Like it or not, peeps 28 years or younger, like-minded souls, are card carrying members.
     Before I write further, I must make a disclaimer: English teachers, please, don’t throw the grammar textbook at me. I’ll duck in defense of what I have to say. It needs to get out in the open, like when your mother taught you that telling the truth is always the best policy.
     I can visualize grammarians, editors and fellow wordsmiths pulling out their hair at the exorbitant number of times I have already used the word, “like,” and I am only at 177 words. Indulge me. I am making a point like I said previously. (Repeating myself like a broken record is getting boring and putting me into a spin.)


     My high school English teacher was a prim and proper lady of undetermined age — my guess as a teen would have been she was in her eighties. (50’s likely would have been accurate.) There was no fun about her whatsoever, and she was like the Grim Reaper. I believed that she would do everything within her power — like making a school year miserable — and English class deadly. Her life must have been hard chopping firewood for the potbelly stove. Smiles were not part of the curriculum, nor was a timid student tolerated — like stoicism is the path to endurance and achievement.
      Her favorite saying, “Please don’t butcher the king’s English,” scares the willies out of me to this day like all the other threats she made of what the future would hold for unforgiving students that didn’t do their homework — like I even cared at the ripe age of sixteen.
     I vividly remember standing at the chalkboard until the bell rang  — it saved my skin in the nick of time — diagramming a sentence and putting those lovely adjectives, adverbs and participles in their correct places like lining up chess pieces. I couldn’t get it straight, and the more I stood with my back to my classmates, the more nervous I became. You would think that I was looking at words to the likes of a foreign language. It went down the tubes from there with no clowning around, including my dislike for teachers singling out students and not rescuing them from a brief moment of embarrassment and distress that they will never forget.
     My English teacher with her furrowed brow and tight bun of wispy hair like a character out of an 18th century Dickens novel claimed that the word, “like,” is one of those boring and bland ones. “Good” and “nice” are not much better in my estimation.
     Her sharp voice broke the silent air in the classroom. She stated in no uncertain terms that I must work hard to get “like” out of my sentence structure: I like my dog; I like the house. We drilled and drilled like a precision military marching team improving our choice of words.
      Today, everyone who ventures into the cyber world — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest — is most familiar with the word, “like.”
     “Frontline” had an outstanding show contrasting today’s youth with their efforts at self-promotion — shameless and guilt free — and the 80s generation permitting MTV to dictate the cultural lifestyle for them.
     See a post on Facebook from a virtual friend, and click to “like” it without any other response necessary. Liking is such a bland and easy way to move on in your day. Being a copycat doesn’t require much.
     When someone posts about the death of a pet or family member, it doesn’t seem right to just “like” it without stopping to add a comment. I will post a “dislike” and that is more in likes of an appropriate statement.
     If you count your “likes” at the end of the day like you are in a popularity contest, and worse yet, wonder why certain “friends” don’t respond, you crave approval from the cyber world. It is a flimsy way to live out life.
     Once I posted a picture from a pub in Londonderry, Ireland, and it got more “likes” than any other I can recall. What was that all about? — like it’s about time I had fun and quit working so hard?
    Are you the first to press, “like,” or do you wait to join the crowd of “likes” later?  Perhaps, you don’t state your opinion for fear of offending someone, or a group of people.
     To be truthful, one of my readers asked me to write about the pattern of speech where “like” is included in place of a pause in oral conversation. She says that it annoys her, and rightfully so. You might liken it to casual speech, or meaningless fillers that a speaker uses when he is uncertain of how to express his thoughts.
    I told this reader that I would… like… take up the challenge, and if she clicks,“like,” when the column gets posted online, I will know she approves of the liberties I have taken.