“what’s up im w my thesis adv do you need smth?”
“I am 🙂 about i09’s list of sci-fi comics because it’s got great books on it and is giving me suggestions, but I’m 🙁 because Chrononauts.”
The snippets of conversation above may seem ludicrous. They may shock you and make you wonder, “What is wrong with our children?” You make catch yourself muttering, “That gosh darn technology, it’s ruining our youth. How are they supposed to get jobs and live in this world if they speak in pictures and jibber jabber.” Well let me tell you something. All of the examples provided are from my own personal conversations. The first is a text from my best friend, who is on her way to grad school to get a degree in Creative Writing. The second is a tweet I posted on my twitter. The third is a conversation with my brother, who just graduated from college and works for The Red Cross. Now, I’m not telling you these tidbits about their lives so you can worry more about how even our best and brightest are being corrupted by technology. No. I’ve provided these quotations to exemplify that using technology consistently is not an indicator of diminished intelligence or a lack of connection with reality.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the comic No Mercy is that it provides an unrealistic portrayal of the millennial generation’s use of technology. Whenever the words ‘millennial’ and ‘technology’ are used in the same sentence, the conversation inevitably moves into ‘what is wrong with our youth’ territory. As a millennial myself, I am here to first confirm your worst fears and nightmares, and then soothe you as I help you realize, it really isn’t as scary as you think. Bad news first: no, No Mercy is not an exaggeration. My generation uses technology a lot. We instagram our food and tweet about everything from the most mundane class to whatever fad happens to be taking over social media. We use hashtags. So many hashtags! We shorten words, use emoticons in place of words, and make up new words. No Mercy is a genuine, honest representation of how technology has become an integral part of everyday life.
And now it’s good news time: yes, we use technology all the time, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Don’t be afraid! I know so many people who talk in such elaborate text speak that those who haven’t been around them for ages and gotten used to it would probably not be able to understand a word. But these same people have gone on to write beautiful pieces of prose, have been hired by the best and most elite software companies, have been working in prestigious internships and have been asked to continue with the companies because of the quality of their work, etc. Technology is less a hinderance or distraction for my generation and more an extension of who we are. I like to think of it as a different dialect. While it may not make sense to everyone, it makes sense to us and allows us to accomplish things and succeed in the world that we have created.
No Mercy is a great example of the ways in which technology intersect with life. First of all, it shows that not everyone uses technology in the same way. Some people, like Tiffani, are constantly on social media. Others, like Charlene, view technology more as a necessity than as a source of pleasure. I know it’s hard to imagine that youth are not all identical, screen fed, cyber bots, but it’s true. One person’s relationship with technology can be vastly different from another’s, even if they’re the same age and involved in the same activities. No Mercy also shows the wide variety of technology that is used. Technology is quite an umbrella of a word, encompassing texting, twitter, Facebook, instagram, music players, cameras and so much more. An overwhelming amount of these uses are available in one place now, thanks to smart phones, so while it’s true a lot of us spend a good amount of time looking at a screen, you never really can be sure what a person is using their phone for. No Mercy’s careful attention to technological details in it’s art and dialogue showcase the versatility and immersive nature of technology in our lives. It highlights the benefits and potential drawbacks of constant phone usage, but most importantly it shows how normal and socialized technology has become.
I repeat: denial is not necessary. Yes, technology is frequently used how it’s portrayed in No Mercy, but this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Seeing No Mercy as an exaggeration of a generation is a way of convincing yourself that times aren’t changing, but believe me, they are. So instead of fretting and getting your phone cords in a knot, embrace it! Or if you don’t embrace it, at least accept it because we aren’t going to stop finding ways to share, search, and photograph everything that crosses our paths anytime soon.
Jason Sacks: Julia, I am not a Millennial. In fact, I could be imagined as a member of that whining generation that wants you kids to get off of my virtual lawn and quit playing around on those crazy electronic devices you all have these days.
But I won’t.
Because the technological boom that we’re living with today is a gift. It’s makes life more fulfilling and keeps us all more connected. It rewires our brains and changes each of our lives in significant ways. It keeps us connected, allows me to talk to you in a Google Doc and my friends all around the work on Twitter and text my friends and family and generally make my life a richer place.
“The kids these days” has been a rant that probably goes back to the Ancient Greeks. I’m sure that Aristophanes wrote a piece 2100 years ago that satirizes the obsessions that the youngsters of the time had with their latest technology. Theodore Roosevelt famously worried that the youth of America wasn’t tough enough around the beginning of the 20th century, figuring a “quiet little war” would help to improve our kids and our country (that quiet little war triggered a conflict in the Philippines that’s a bit of an unfortunately template for the Iraq War, but I digress).
In more recent times adults condemned MTV, or rap music, or underachievement on standardized testing, or whatever, for the fall of America. And yet we survive, and thrive, like we always have. Who cares what some people say? The kids are alright.
I loved how No Mercy is so much more realistic about the way that people live with technology than most other comics. It shows great insight to show the different ways that each kid sees their always-on web connections while also maintaining their innocence, kindness and personality. This ubiquitous technology is just a lever, a tool, a technique that people use to navigate their lives.
As a kind of post-Boomer/early GenXer, I love technology. Facebook has improved my life in innumerable ways, and I’ve made some of my closest friends on Twitter. My only frustration is that we didn’t have smartphones when I was the age of the kids on this book.
It seems pretty clear that these kids will be out of cell range and have to live without their phones. I’m equally as curious to see how Alex De Campi, Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee portray that in future chapters.
Julia: Jason, it’s nice and refreshing to hear that you’ve had a similarly positive experience with technology. I was a bit nervous when writing the first bit of this article that I was being too harsh and not fair to my elders, but I was also trying to tune out my father muttering at his computer and condemning all macbooks to the depths of heck while I was writing, so I decided to go ahead with things. (Love ya, dad!) It’s always important to remember that not everyone of a certain age or experience thinks and feels the same things, but I find it so interesting that people who are of an age that is not often as immersed in technology are criticizing No Mercy as being unrealistic.
I too am interested to see how things move forward. I found it so interesting when Zack Davisson mentioned the other day that the digital age has been an interesting challenge for the horror genre because technology has to be rid of right away or it could solve so many problems and then where would your story be? I think this also applies to the thriller/suspense genre that No Mercy looks to be fitting in. So the technology has been successfully disposed of, how will everyone react? How will things pan out? I’m hoping that No Mercy will be able to show technology withdrawals as well as it shows technology as part of everyday life. I used to work at a week long camp and we were not allowed to have technology in site of the campers at any time because they weren’t allowed technology at camp. I left my phone at home, which now is actually a pretty terrifying thought, but for two years in a row, I had a completely phoneless summer. Some workers did the same, while others would keep their phones in their cabins and only check on them while having a down moment or at night. It was interesting to see how everyone dealt differently with the lack of constant connection. For some, it was easy. For others, it was very hard. And for a few, the world became their social media and they just started talking a whole lot more. I think No Mercy will show similarly fascinating transitions and I can’t wait!
Jason: Well, I can’t pretend that I’m typical of my generation — any more than you are typical of yours. I work in computers and technology and have done so for the majority of my adult life, so I honestly do know more about this sort of thing than most people do (I frequently have conversations with people younger than me about things I assume they know and they don’t). But that’s also part of the point you make above, too: that everybody interacts with technology differently from everybody else, and that it would be foolish to stereotype anybody based on their age or attitude. One of the most interesting aspects of DeCampi and McNeill’s character-building here in No Mercy is that she seems to have taken that issue into account when creating her characters, and considered how they as individuals deal with their technological world.
…and also how they’ll deal with the loss of that tech, in the waythat Davisson describes. It will be interesting to see how DeCampi and team keep things organic and characters real when they’re faced with problems they never knew they’d have to face. To use a famous quote from my parents’ generation, my guess is that ‘the kids are alright.’