It’s no secret – teenagers are plugged in. If aliens invaded, they would scratch their little green heads, wondering about the strange wires coiling from teenaged humans’ ears to their hips.
What are these white curls of connection? I’m always reminded of I.V.s when I see my students these days, as if they’re taking in their angst intravenously. The other day, a teacher I know was lamenting our wired teens. He worried that they are too disconnected, that even in this text-centric world, they are more cut off from each other than ever before. I can see his point. On one of the last days of school this year, two of my students, earbuds firmly wedged in their ears, texted each other across the table. “Hey, robots,” I told them. “How’s about you just, um, talk to each other. ” They looked at me blankly, “We are.”
Still, I’m not sure I’m worried. Teens will always find ways to communicate with each other, even if its virtual. And music has always been a teenage lifestyle. I wouldn’t have recognized one of my friends in college without his Nirvana t-shirt. We’ve been plugged in for years when it comes to music. Personal soundtracks are nothing new. They’re just more portable at this point. Streamlined. And the teenagers I teach are much savvier about music now –they have so many places to find it, consume it, explore it. And share it with each other.
I actually think it’s this sharing that brings them together. “What’re you listening to?” my students often ask each other. And even if it’s a band the other has never heard of, there is something universally connected about them both listening and something equally human about them imparting it. That’s the power of music for teens (and all of us). No matter where you go, there’s music. This love of music, no matter the kind, is that connective tissue that bonds teens – even if it doesn’t have little white wires. Rather, these wires are the invisible human kind.
So…what’re you listening to?