Concerned about the Young Generations

By Ben Anson

Foto: Metro

HAVANA TIMES – Are we a generation of utter idiots? I do sometimes wonder, what will my generation be remembered for? Anything of stature? Anything remarkable or remotely admirable? Will Instagram, Facebook, Trap music and Uber taxis be what future generations study when delving into the history of millennials?

Dear me.

While my generation is (on the whole) a shockingly inept and weak concoction, comprised of characters who are consistently ‘offended’ and others that upload every second of their day to day onto the Facebook stories section – it appears that my younger brother’s generation – is slightly worse.

He, (my brother) falls into what is technically classed as ‘Generation X’. His birth year being 2001. Frankly, there is little difference between our generations; it only seems that his is far more reliant upon technology. The Millennials most certainly are yet those of Gen. X are even more so – I would say.

Personally, I haven’t met anyone of my brother’s generation who isn’t obsessed with YouTube, Instagram, Facebook etc. They are even using other apps, which I haven’t actually heard of. ‘Tik Tok’ videos?


I don’t know.

Giving an English class to a small group of students all around my brother’s age, I was – after ten minutes, hugely lost. I actually felt like an old person in the room, at the age of twenty-four…

“What do you do in your free time?”

“YouTube Mr.”

“Anything else?”

“I check my social media…”

The class lasted for five hours as these students undertake intensive English courses on Saturdays. Half an hour in, with such award-winning chat, I pondered – in utter seriousness – the notion of walking out. I was so bored that (to use the comic Irish saying) “I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind”.

“What are your hobbies?” I asked a young lady.

“I like updating my Instagram stories.”

I swear upon my mother’s health that I have never heard such a pitiful answer to that particular question. Is that REALLY A HOBBY???

I am sure that if I had asked the question to someone of my grandparent’s generation (by somehow time travelling back to when they were young) I’d have received some proper answers. Fishing, painting, drawing, writing, making model sets – cycling – who knows?

“Who are your idols? Who do you look up to – who do you admire?”

They do boast an excellent level of English, that I must give to them.

I expected the names of actors and singers.

I was instead ‘educated’ on various ‘Youtubers’.

“What do you want to be when you are older?”

“A famous Youtuber Mr. Ben.” Responded three of five.


Tik Tok videos are their new favorite pastime. From what I have understood, one downloads the ‘Tik Tok’ app onto one’s phone and upon doing so proceeds to make silly videos – perhaps dancing or making faces – with music in the background.

And it is our generations who are expected to combat climate change for instance.


I do wonder sometimes, is it still a question of ‘what is it coming to?’ It appears quite decidedly that – it has ‘already come to it.’

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Ben Anson

“The moment that I disembark (from a plane), I notice that everything in my body and in my mind readjusts itself for me", so remarked Gabriel Garcia Marquez - when speaking of his relationship with the Caribbean. He felt the strongest physical and mental connection with this part of the world and deemed it as far as ‘grave’ and immensely ‘dangerous’ for him to leave its zone. Only here, did ‘Gabo’ feel ‘right’ in himself. Honduras, does for me - precisely what the Caribbean did for Marquez. A resplendent yet troubled nation, that I have been decidedly unable to part with ever since 2014. I thus seek to capture its essence through the written word.

Ben Anson has 29 posts and counting. See all posts by Ben Anson

8 thoughts on “Concerned about the Young Generations

  • Have to agree with Carlos. I do not think there is any talent to social media. Anybody of any age could get their head around it. I recommend the YouTuber Gary Vaynerchuk, who despite not growing up with it – he is a middle-aged expert. Why? Because he learnt how to do ‘hashtags’ and ‘instagram stories’. Not rocket science if you spend/waste enough time on these platforms. Hardly a talent. Not to be compared with somebody who can act, paint or speak five languages… Just my opinion. Take it or leave it.

  • Stephen,
    When The Who sung ‘The Kids Are Alright’ they were commenting on young teenagers and not for example 8-year old children. When I reference ‘getting down with the kids’ I am too commenting on young teenagers together with older ones of 19 years old for that matter. Try this EFL type passage to further understand:

    Monika: Jose, I like your trainers, very cool… and look at your designer jeans. Trendy! Jose’s looking quite trendy today – for a change!

    Jose: So you like them then?

    Monika: I do but… it’s not really what someone your age normally wears.

    Jose: I see. But don’t you think it makes me look cool and fashionable and… younger?

    Monika: Erm…

    Jose: I’m just trying to get down with the kids.

    Monika: The kids?! You’re down with the kids? Down where exactly?

    Jose: Oh Monika, keep up! I’m not going anywhere. I mean I’m keeping in with the kids. I’m in tune with the younger generation – yeah!
    Helen: So Jose, to do this you have to dress like a teenager?

    RE your comments such as: ‘Why wouldn’t short videos or photos not be relevant in the classroom to enhance students’ learning vis-à-vis grammar and writing?’ Why not indeed and yes, absolutely agree. However, that’s away from your first post whereby you suggested the teacher encourage the student to further pursue her ‘hobby’ based around Instagram ‘stories’ which you mistakenly believed involved words and grammar.
    So, I’ll end again but stating that in my opinion Instagram is a toxic and indefensible app that does more harm than good and should in no way be encouraged as a hobby or furthermore championed as an EFL learning aid.

  • Ben,

    “Whatever happened to expressing talents? Painting or a touch of sport? Do you not agree slightly? What were the hobbies of young people during your time?”

    What do you mean by “talents”? Dictionary definition: “… a superior inborn capacity for a special field…” A young person may state that this definition applies aptly and appropriately to them in their ability to use Instagram, or any other technology foreign to you and me, perhaps better than another person. They even astound the teachers with their talent to demonstrate how easy this technology is to use sometimes much to the chagrin and head scratching of teachers.That’s talent. Certainly not what I and you consider appropriate but we have to see this situation from a student’s perspective if you want to successfully engage and motivate students.

    Well, what were my hobbies when I was growing up in Canada (northern Canada). Certainly sports: hockey during the long winter months, football and baseball during the short summers. I also enjoyed reading for pleasure. All my friends did the same things because there was not much else to do after school. Unlike Cuba where high school students do not work during their summer vacations, young people, myself included, had summer jobs to earn money to go to college/university.

  • Yes, I agree Carlos. I do think that this should be encouraged…

  • An excellent set of thoughts Stephen, you are absolutely right about the links with depression and mental health. I do feel that technology is becoming all-consuming however within the younger generations. I find it nothing short of tragic that a young lady’s hobby be ‘updating instragram’ when the world offers such a vast array of things to be interested in and activities to undertake. Whatever happened to expressing talents? Painting or a touch of sport? Do you not agree slightly? What were the hobbies of young people during your time?

  • Carlos,

    The author of this article is teaching and commenting about young teenagers not “kids” in elementary school.

    The author states: “He, (my brother) falls into what is technically classed as ‘Generation X’. His birth year being 2001.” Today, 2020, that makes him 19 years old – a far cry from being a “kid”.

    Young teenagers in school want to be academically challenged. At least that has been my experience. As I pointed out in my response to the article, the teaching atmosphere in the classroom has radically changed. I do not know whether it has undergone a radical change in Cuba. I suspect not.

    Also, having taught in Cuba your system of education is a top down, authoritarian approach to teaching. I am not disparaging this interactive teaching style, but my initial comments are based on the Canadian style of classroom teaching which is more student centered, more democratic.

    You state writing style and grammar do not enter into a short video or photos as utilized by the technology. I beg to differ.

    If you are teaching EFL, why wouldn’t short videos or photos not be relevant in the classroom to enhance students’ learning vis-à-vis grammar and writing? I am quite perplexed hearing that from, I assume, a practicing teacher.

    Can’t the teacher assign a writing assignment to students who have used Instagram and have them submit their piece of writing to the teacher for marking? This is grammar and writing style focused. Dido for a video? Can’t the students watch a short video and begin discussing the content in the classroom. Would that not spur oral interaction, one of the fundamentals of EFL learning besides reading and writing? How would that substantial amount of learning material “backfire” as you state?

    In fact, rather than backfire, you may find students to be more encouraged to come to class, do their homework, participate in class, and overall be more academically successful using the latest technology (with limits) at hand. It only takes a progressive teacher and system to realize that.

  • ‘In terms of writing style, grammar, how have the stories been structured?’

    ‘Students like nothing better than to have a teacher who is in tune to their communicative life style’

    Well, Stephen, from what I understand though I could be mistaken, your ‘getting down with the kids’ advice would surely have backfired. Instagram ‘stories’ comprise nothing more than short video (max 15 seconds I believe) and/or photos. Writing style and grammar do not come into it. They are the ultimate examples of narcissism in social media and should not, I believe, be encouraged as a ‘hobby’.

  • What is happening to our youth, whether they live in Cuba, or Canada – from where I will discuss this technology and its impact in relation to your article – can seem detrimental but there are also positives.

    Loneliness, depression, social isolation are at an all time high among young people today. Youth today are so entrenched with the technology you have stated – YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Toc (??), and other social media avenues that they spend hours and hours per day glued to their devices. Little or next to no face to face communication takes place. It is a world of touch screen “likes” or “dislikes”. How many do you have? For a young person it can make the difference between being normal and extremely depressed.

    Young people today are so sleep deprived because the blue light emanating from their phone and tablet screens late at night is interfering with the melatonin production necessary for a restful sleep. Doctors are concerned.

    Perhaps not a problem, yet(?) in Cuba, but certainly in Canada some elementary and secondary schools have banned cell phones in the classroom because of the constant interruptions and the lack of student concentration on their studies in class.

    This technology is here to stay. We, speaking for myself, from an older generation have to see and try to understand where students are coming from when using this technology. Your example of the young lady whom you asked: What is your hobby? She replied: “I like updating my Instagram stories.” Your rhetorical response: “Is that REALLY A HOBBY???

    Perhaps for the young lady that is a legitimate hobby. As an English teacher I would see her response as an teaching opportunity to engage the student to explore further her “Instagram stories”. In terms of writing style, grammar, how have the stories been structured? Here is an opportunity to engage the student on their very own technological turf to have two way communication so that both the teacher and student are on the same wave length.

    Moreover, if the student is compliant and wants to share her hobbies, the Instagram posts can be shared with the rest of the class and the teacher can provide positive comments and corrections so that the whole exercise is one of English language learning using the latest technology which all students can appreciate and welcome. Students like nothing better than to have a teacher who is in tune to their communicative life style and the student has given you fodder for mutual engagement.

    Rather than being a scourge, the technology when used appropriately in a learning environment can be a win-win scenario in Cuba and elsewhere.

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