21st Century Problem Solvers

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NOTE: This was first posted on my Medium blog last year. With the release of two documentaries about the Fyre Festival, I thought it was worth reposting.

I know everyone’s having a good laugh at the Fyre Festival stories today, and you should. It’s the living embodiment of privilege come to life and then temporarily going into hiding.

(Seriously if you haven’t heard of this “festival” go search on Twitter or Reddit and come back in half an hour. I’ll be here)

While it’s fun to make fun of spoiled millennials being conned out of their parents’ money, the truth is a lot of people dodged a bullet, definitely figuratively and what could’ve been literally. Despite our laughter (myself included), being dehydrated and hungry really isn’t an easy thing to go through, and it’s a blessing no one ended up in worse shape than that. There are no accounts of deaths or life-threatening injuries, and we should be truly relieved that hundreds of people didn’t have that happen.

What did the world learn today? We learned some obvious lessons, like don’t give $12,000 to rappers from 2002, and Instagram models promoting a festival doesn’t mean you’ll actually hang out with them. Some people learned when you give an organization money and they have an undeliverable email address, you probably shouldn’t send them more money. But the biggest one is actually important: A lot of well-off Americans cannot deal with adversity.

Having no water, shelter and limited food is a legitimately difficult position to be in. But it took less than two days of rough conditions for people to start fighting over food and taking whatever they could from others. You had hundreds or maybe even thousands of young, athletic and educated people who were unwilling or unable to work together for support and to find a solution. That’s a problem that will have effects later in life much larger than a couple tough days on an island.

Maybe the “Hunger Games” stories are overblown, and most people really stayed calm and worked out their options. But all the comments, pictures and videos are either of arguments and fights, or people sad, hungry and begging for help. Not one has been of people organizing their fellow attendees, pooling resources or trying to improve their situation. Not to mention the people who Instagrammed their “escape” and sent well-wishes to their friends still on the island.


I’m an uncle and not a parent so maybe I’m missing a step, but it seems there’s a straight line from helicopter parenting and safe playgrounds to this weekend at Exuma Island. When parents stopped letting their kids resolve their own disputes, they didn’t teach them how to work with others and figure out solutions. When playgrounds became all soft and plastic, kids never learned those feelings of accomplishment and overcoming fear after climbing the tall and scary monkey bars.

There are now pictures online of people celebrating their return to comfort by partying in Miami or the Caymans or wherever they went. I’m sincerely glad they’re safe, but it seems many will only learn the lesson to wait for Drake to organize a concert instead of trusting Ja Rule with their frequent flyer miles.

Unfortunately this may turn into a fun story to tell your friends, but one where no personal growth comes from it. Five minutes after getting out of dodge, everyone’s back to their luxurious lifestyles. A woman named Storey Frizzell’s (since deleted) tweet about “her reality” of fine dining and yachts does not make me think she’ll be a stronger person, even after going through a truly difficult situation.

This weekend won’t be the last curveball life throws. Hopefully those who are now safe will bring home the motivation to gain new skills that can help when life forces them out of their comfort zone.

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