Category Archives: Odd Musings

Smartphones and Generations

Recently I read an article “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?” by Jean Twenge. An overview of some recent generational studies of the “iGen”, the generation born between 1995 and 2012, has revealed some interesting facts.  Some pretty good, like this generation of teenagers are more safe than those in the past or that the rates of teenage pregnancy is down.  Other facts are a little more startling.  It seems the iGen is less likely to spend time with others, are more depressed, and have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and plans.

Twenge states that this age group is a “lonely, dislocated generation”.  In the article, the teenagers are framed as still having the age-old issues of fitting in with others.  Even though the teens are not spending as much time together, the relentless documentation of their engagement in the outside world when they do venture out feeds the lonely feelings of those being left out. These factors, along with some others, are increasing depression within teens. It makes me sad to think about all of these youths who are missing out on living because they are mostly interacting with their electronic versions of their friends.

As I am preparing some lessons on teaching middle and late childhood development to master’s level counseling students, I recognize that many of these students have some similarities to the iGen.  Not in the higher depression or other factors, but have stronger ties to the internet and living in a more connected method.  Even with a broader age range of students at the graduate school level, there is still a big way we document our lives.

Perhaps previous generations who have walked along side the birth and rise of the internet and social media have gained some skills in balance.  Maybe not…as I can say that many from Generation X (my peeps), Gen Y, and the Millennials have felt the twinges of not being able to “keep up with Jones”.  Postings of outings, things being accomplished, and hashtags of our lives can still leave some adults feeling inadequate.  There is that feeling of some unknown pressure to do all of these super-cool things; to balance life, work, home, family, and social with ease and elegance.  Possibly, we have more willpower to be able to step away from the computer screen or put down the phone and interact with each other.

Ironically, I type all of this on my computer screen and will probably check in on social media before I go to bed.  Fortunately, I can say that I smell my dinner being cooked and I will have interaction with others during dinner.  I value the human interaction without the distractions of electronics.  I leave with one thought and a plea – if you are able, try to unplug and interact.  Not only just for you, but for those around you.  Do not be afraid to connect in real ways, rather than just virtual ways.

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Fika: More Than Just Coffee and Sweets

Fika is a Swedish tradition of taking time in the afternoon to share some coffee (kaffe), cookies (kokkar), and cakes (kaka…I think).  Fika is so much more than a simple coffee break. It is a reminder to take part of your afternoon to enjoy the company of others while sharing drink and food.

Since I have been part of the Olson family, fika has become part of my vocabulary.  It has been explained to me and I have shared in that tradition when I am with my in-laws.  Technically, I have done something similar with my own family when we have gathered for as far back as I remember. It was more or less referred to as “having coffee”. Additionally, I think that it is also quite similar to high tea that the British practice. 

Recently, I have had the honor and pleasure of having fika while in Sweden in a few settings.  The formal fikas were with lovely china teacups and so many homemade cookies baked with love and anticipation of our visit.  The informal fikas were with pastries or home-baked cakes with freshly made cream topped with strawberries.  One has been at a picnic table on the grounds of a castle where my husband’s 3x-grandfather worked.  We have even had fika in a charming courtyard cafe while visiting a southern seaside town.

Each fika has been shared with friends, family, and many stories of times long ago.  Every moment has been special and memorable.  It has also reminded me of “having coffee” long ago in my own past with beloved family members, shared with our traditional goodies and stories.

Fika is now linked in my mind with family.  Family can be the ones you are born into, the ones you are loved into, the friends whom become loved like family, and the people you share life experiences with to create bonds. I will take Fika with me back home in my heart.  This is a tradition, I’m pretty sure we will maintain in my family in the future.  Hopefully, it will be with some of the Swedish family cookie recipes I’m hoping to collect!

If I get them, I may just invite ya over for a US southern spin on fika! Skol!

Test Anxiety!

Being a PhD Candidate, I am no stranger to exams, tests, or other ways to measure teaching and learning.  In seeking my professional counselor’s license in North Carolina and my national counseling certificate, I had to take a very long, comprehensive exam that covered the major areas of studies for counseling professionals. Although that was now 10 years ago, I still recall those days (and weeks!) filled with anxiety surrounding my study schedule and the exam itself.  Add to that the anxiety over the implications of failing that exam. Plus, it was expensive.

Today, I sit on the sidelines.  Tomorrow, my beloved partner, who is a dedicated medical student, will take his Step One medical exam. In translation, this is a comprehensive exam that tests on the entire content of his two years in medical school thus far.  Similar to what I went through, however, it has added bonus and layers of pressure.  Not passing this exam, holds him back from beginning his third year of medical school. The third year allows the students to have rotations in hospital and other medical settings to experience the basic areas of medicine. It lets them start their supervised practice of medicine. Yep, a lot of pressure to pass.

The extra bonus that carries huge implications are the scoring results of the exam.  Results dictate both the immediate future, as well as potential career paths in medicine.  Wait,…what?!  Yes,the higher your scores, the more opportunities you have potential for and the lower the score the fewer. Talk about pressure!  So if anyone has dreams and aspirations of being a surgeon or neurologist, they must have an awesome score.  If the score is not as high, then plan B or even plan C may be their course of action.

As a person who does go to the doctor, I appreciate the fact that doctors and specialists need to know their stuff.  As a mental health care professional, I have concerns for those who have major text anxiety, may not test well, or are not able to manage their stress in the weeks/days leading up to the test.  What does this do for their mental health and well-being with so much pressure on the performance at this one moment in time?

My heart goes out to all of these medical students.  Not only do you have to pass, but you need to do as well as possible to keep your opportunities open.

All that said, I have seen the hours and hours of time invested in study questions, drills, and pouring over materials with microscopic vision. I have seen the zombie-like looks for those over-study sessions and next day ‘study hangovers’.  I have even seen a post-exam ‘vacant’ look that comes in the days afterward.  Soon, this will be over for this year’s lot.  It can’t happen fast enough, in my opinion.

I have the utmost confidence that my husband will do well. I am his biggest fan and cheerleader.  Also, I know the heart he has to help others.  He has studied long and hard.  He only has a few more short hours to review (and pray!) and then rest before his clock starts tomorrow for the exam. My thoughts, prayers, and heart go with him.

Then the 4-5 weeks of waiting for the results begins…