Timothy Leary coined the phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out” in the 1960’s. According to the Wiki entry, it was 1967 and may very well have been a marketing ploy. The Wiki entry is a little vague on that, but Leary was the PT Barnum of his day. Getting people to see the wolf boy or bearded lady is no different than signing people up for a “be-in.” The way in which the barker profits is different, but the retail end is the same. The suckers are reeled in and sold something they cannot take with them. In Leary’s case, he was all about being famous. That got him writing and speaking gigs, which were mostly about maintaining his fame. He was the drug addled Madonna of his day, I suppose.
Anyway, that phrase came to mind when I saw this on Tyler Cowen’s site. As I get older, I find I disconnect from pop culture in various ways. I probably stopped being current with music in the late 1990’s. Using this as a guide, my decoupling from the pop music pod started around 1995. By the time I was hoarding canned goods for the Y2K collapse, I was largely oblivious to what was current in pop music. For instance, I’ve never heard Christina Aguilera sing a note, as far as I know. According to her Wiki page, she would qualify as a fake Hispanic, assuming she is levering that multi-cultural stone. That means I’m over a decade removed from giving a crap about the Top-40.
Popular music has always been a young man’s game. My grandfather listened to big band and swing until he died. He thought rock was garbage. He was right, for the most part. It required a great deal more talent to create big band music than rock and roll. The men and women performing in those bands were infinity more accomplished as musician than Elvis. My parents stalled out around the end of the Motown Era. As a kid I recall them listening to Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Diana Ross. They thought the Beatles and Stones were bums. The point being is that men put aside pop music as they mature so I’m hardly an outlier. The oddity today is the delayed onset adulthood where men stay juveniles into their 30’s.
This long wind up is not without purpose. Pop culture is for kids. Pop technology is for kids too. In my youth, young whipper-snappers were dialing up to the BBS to have a flame war over such hot topics as baseball stats and comic book characters. Somewhere when I was decoupling from the pop music pod, kids were instant messaging and then texting. I and my coevals were late to the game. By the time we were into it, other social media was growing up. I was late to Facebook and never did MySpace. I’ve been on twitter for just a year and barely use it. As best I can tell, Facebook is the domain of grandparents and foreigners now. American youth is onto twitter and instagram.
As the population of the West grows older, I wonder if the new trend will not be neo-Luddite movements like the title of this post. The Boomers in America are in the age range of 68 at the high end and 53 at the low end. I know, I know. Demographers say the boom lasted to 1965, but that’s a stretch. Live births to white females started to drop in 1960 and rabidly declined from there. Anyone born in the mid-to-late 60’s knows the weird feeling of seeing a big student population in the higher grades and hardly anyone in the lower grades. My little league went from ten teams for my brother down to four me me.
The typical 65 year old is not taking up vine or instagram. They may be on Facebook, but that’s their last new thing. The folks at the other end are probably in the same boat. They may take up twitter, but that’s it for them. As this cohort abandons their property around the country and moves into retirement villages in the south and southwest, face-to-face interaction will become the pleasure of old age. We may be near a point where the generation that wanted to take drugs and hangout in the park will end up taking drugs and hanging out in the day room at the home – on purpose.