Cars and being single

Can cars ever go out of style? Looking at the glitzy car shows, the endless programs devoted to automobiles or the gushy reviews for new model launches, one would think that it’s all business as usual. Yet, there’s a very clear sense of dread at automotive companies – that a growing number of 18 to 24-year-olds think of cars as nothing more than gas guzzlers and don’t plan on buying a car anytime soon. So GM is turning to the expert purveyors of youth culture, MTV – to understand what will make cars more attractive. What is more worrying is that young people would prefer the internet to the car any day – and that is a definite cause for alarm.

If you’ve noticed, children today rarely look out of the car during a drive. If they have a mobile phone, they are absorbed in it because the screen is a lot more ‘active’ than the scenery that passes by. They aren’t happy to just watch nature unfold its majesty in quiet splendour. They want it in fast forward. So the only thing that retains their attention is a video game or a chat with 10 friends simultaneously. There’s no excitement is watching a cloud drift slowly and guess what it will transform into. So, what’s the point in being stuck behind a wheel for hours to get to a place?

The other change is that the number of people living alone in the US has multiplied over the last decade. Not just those who don’t want to get married but people who prefer it that way. Solitude used to be for a select few. Now, apparently, it is the preferred state of being. People retreat to their internet-addled, video streamed, microwaved lunch and dinner scheduled lives without having to answer or share space with anyone else. And share only on their social networks. They have hundreds of online friends and few in the real world. And if you really see what has changed in the last couple of decades is networking on a global scale. So instead of feeling close to one another with the death of distance in the virtual world, we feel oddly disconnected.

We need the net like a daily fix, if only to hop skip and jump from link to link in an endless voyage of being everywhere and getting nowhere. Our attention spans have dropped to less than 3-4 minutes, the vast majority of us have no patience with books and the more conveniences and material riches we have, the more we crave for. In a less developed and less connected world, we seemed to have the time for making friends and collecting experiences.

Like wine kept for decades and maturing slowly, we grew into our jobs, our successes and our families. Today, it’s about how many shots you can pour down in a single sitting. There’s nothing to savour or linger over. Whatever life has to offer, take greedily and go looking for the next novel experience. Don’t make five friends, make 500. Don’t earn thousands, earn billions. Taking is winning. Giving is losing. And are we still foolish enough to believe that nothing much has changed in our lives?