Muscle atrophy. We all know someone who broke an arm or leg, and had it in a cast for four to six weeks. When the cast is removed — the muscles underneath are deformed and reduced. It’s called “disuse muscular atrophy.” When muscles are not used or exerted, they shrink. This phenomenon has been studied widely in astronauts who experience zero gravity conditions.
It’s surprising how fast disuse atrophy might occur. Researchers have investigated what happens during limb immobilization after injury. One study found that muscle wasting was detected in as little as three days following immobilization. The degree of atrophy experienced in a muscle depends on how that muscle is used. It’s a vivid illustration of the old adage: Use it or lose it.
I believe this is an accurate analogy for us to understand what’s happened in our culture today. As I work with tens of thousands of students and adults each year — I hear frustration. Teachers, parents, youth workers, coaches, and pastors have observed a vacuum of virtues or disciplines in kids today that were common years ago. What’s happened? I think I know — it’s atrophy. Because we’ve created a world where they don’t need those disciplines to get by — they’re like muscles that never get used. They go away.
My Questions About the Atrophied Muscles in Generation iY
We have a picture here of students today. The perfect storm of elements has created an “I” world. This world is convenient, instant, simple, and surreal. But this world has caused certain intellectual, emotional and spiritual muscles to atrophy. The questions rolling around in my head are these:
1. Has constant exposure to technology lowered the emotional intelligence of a generation?
2. Does our kids’ premature launch into school (at ages four or five) foster a postponed launch into adulthood (at ages twenty-six or later)?
3. Is the early affirmation kids receive from adults causing narcissism and depression for them later on in their life?
4. Has the increased time playing video games lowered the grades boys make in school?
5. Does the heavy access to social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) impede the development of mature relational skills?
6. Does the speed of the Google world diminish their ability to sustain long-term commitments or delay gratification?
7. Have antiquated teaching methods in schools caused a disconnect between adult and student generations?
8. Do the lies we adults (especially parents) tell our kids actually return to haunt them in the form of anger and disillusionment?
9. Have the chemicals we put in their bodies fogged their sense of identity and delayed their entrance into adulthood?
10. Will the expanded population of Generation iY in a challenged worldwide economy worldwide spark violence and antisocial behavior?
Discussion: Do any of these questions linger in your mind? What are your primary concerns?