The Joy of Unwrapping.
They say that each new generation is different. I’m certain it’s true. But I still expect my children to be just like me. In many respects they are; from the avid reading and telly watching to the mild suspicion of group sports. There are, however, certain new interests and preoccupations my offspring have latched onto that I can’t quite connect with. The attraction of observing other people unwrap parcels is one of them.
My son gets enormous pleasure from watching these little films uploaded to YouTube of Dads and their children unwrapping Lego. What’s the fascination? I’ve got no idea.
I can understand the pleasure derived from unwrapping or unboxing your own birthday or Christmas presents. In fact, this very weekend, I indulged in one of my favourite of all little pastimes – receiving and opening the package which contains the paperback version of my new book. In the writing and publishing world, nothing quite beats it.
But watching someone else demolishing a pile of pressies, I just don’t understand. So I asked my youngest why he enjoys it so much. He told me it’s because he wants to see what’s inside (yes, I asked for that) and to discover if it will turn out to be a set he already has or something new that he may want in the future. Occasionally, they go on to construct the set and he can compare their building methods with his own.
Okay, so I’m starting to appreciate the purpose of the exercise. The opening of the package builds the suspense, like turning over the early pages of a novel, skimming through the publisher’s info and acknowledgments. The anticipation is being established for the main event, when we begin Chapter 1 itself.
This type of activity is also indicative of the visual nature of young people’s lives these days. The digital world is an aesthetic one; where arresting images and fast-moving videos accompany almost every word that’s written. I would stop short at suggesting it is voyeuristic, because I suspect this view is old fashioned. I find it a bit weird and unsettling because it is new to me. But then so is Skype and Facetime.
There are crucial aspects of young people’s lives that are very different from the way ours were. Although getting a chance to watch people just like us around the world doing the exact same things that we do is perhaps not such a bad thing. It shows that there is so much more that unites humanity than divides us – a very important belief to cling on to at this particularly unstable period of time for many parts of the planet.
So I’m keeping an open mind. There is certainly stuff that my son should not be watching through the world wide web, but the innocent and simple joys of unwrapping a parcel, surely a universal human pleasure, probably isn’t one of them.