When considering a potential topic for my first assignment for this unit, I toyed with the statement ‘today’s youth; self-indulgent narcissist or global activists who are part of a bigger picture?’. Conferring with my ever wise students, I was struck by the reaction I had feared when penning the sentence. The boys were offended that their generation could be summed up to be just one or the other, that perhaps they, just as all who have come before them, offered many different qualities to the world they existed in and were just trying to charter their way through the completely confusing period of youth. Naturally, I scrapped the idea for something ‘safer’, with less controversial issues surrounding it, but the subject of defining today’s youth kept arising in my day to day life.
I have for some time been convinced of the negative effect social media will have on those growing up with it ever present in their society. One look at some of the younger members of Facebook’s pages includes endless vapid ‘selfies’ and shallow comments by friends stating that they are ‘so gorgeous’ with responses along the lines of ‘no you are so pretty’. While on the outside this looks like a wonderful way of boosting self-image and self-worth and providing empathy (as mentioned in this NY Times article) and no doubt it is, I feel like it is also has the potential to develop an unnaturally high need for self-promotion and peer acceptance. That it is promoting the idea that everyone is incredibly important and everything they post and say MUST be heard by all. This was an opinion I have mostly kept to myself as I feel it makes me look pessimistic and old, with no real understanding of ‘today’s youth’. It wasn’t however until a chance conversation in the staffroom that I discovered perhaps it was not just me that felt this way. Another teacher stated their class was incredibly loud, students were always talking over one another and not really listening to anyone else, just making sure that what they said was heard. The teacher stated that this behavior was a clear sign of the age of social media where everyone must be the center of attention. Nodding smugly, I thought ‘yes, finally it is not just me seeing the world this way’, but a change in recent events in the media have had me questioning my attitude.
While doing my work I often listen to a talkback radio and the topic one afternoon this week regarded a recent damning report about the ‘state of today’s youth’ which had been released, labeling many of them ‘NEETs’ and stating that a large portion of them were unemployed and living at home with no interest in seeking a job. A lot of members of the public, over a certain age, rang in, stating their disgust and incomprehension for this generation’s ability to get their ‘act together’. Each new caller ringing in blaming all the problems of today’s society on the ‘youth’ made me more and more infuriated until I got so disgusted I turned the radio off. According to numerous negative articles written about the report 1 in every 8 people between the age of 15 -29 is unemployed, yet in these articles this figure gives no consideration to participants background or ability and even states that 41% of those unemployed are looking for work. Is this not a statement on the workforce in today’s society as a whole rather than young adults? Reflecting on this I wondered why it was OK for me to make sweeping statements about a group of people but not others and it was then that I realised there was an issue with perhaps not only my thinking but much of societies. Through a little research on my own Facebook page, I found numerous ‘selfies’ taken as profile pictures from my late teens/early twenties and ridiculous ‘status updates’ stating simply ‘Dani is.. tired’ or ‘Dani is… sick’, why did I post these? Possibly to feel a part of something, to have my own voice out there or perhaps simply I was bored. The truth is, I was this ‘youth’ that is so blatantly being attacked in the media at present, I was the one sick of all the negative attention and in reality at some point we have all been the ‘youth’ that is potentially the worst generation to exist on the planet according to the media. Most of us grow up, change and develop interests in other things that weren’t so important when we were younger.
Make no mistake, today’s youth, often dubbed the ‘millennials’, are certainly aware of the negative view a lot of society has of them, recently I found this quiz on ‘Buzzfeed’ that reflects this perfectly and they have responded to the ‘NEET’s’ articles with humour and disdain. Three years ago Time magazine published an article titled ‘The Me, Me Me Generation’ exploring what results from the desire to raise self-confident children as many have now grown up to feel entitled. It concludes with the thinking that yes, some of these people can be self-involved but there are also those making a huge difference in people’s lives and that all of them have the potential to change the world. The lesson to be learned, I will try not to generalise about the ‘youth of today’, I will endeavor to relate to the experiences I had when I was their age, fully aware that as time passes and technology advances this will become more and more difficult. For me to say that an entire generation is a pack of non-ambitious narcissists as a huge step back in my outlook on life and that of societies, instead we should embrace the opportunity to really learn something from those coming along after us.
Ali Akbar, A., & Chack, E. (2016). Buzzfeed: How Millennial Are You?Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeed.com/ahmedaliakbar/millennials -are-killing-quizzes?utm_term=.wrdnd8xxX#.wyOa0yvv e
Bita, N., & Houghton, J. (2016, September 16). Meet the NEETS: They’re young and able, but completely unwilling to look for work. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/meet-the -neets-theyre-young-and-able-but-completely-unwill ing-to-look-for-work/news-story/4c73b1b33844ef2f32 23dd0bdce30fc7
OECD. (2016). Investing in Youth: Australia. Investigating Youth. OECD Publishing. Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264257498-en
Panahi, R. (2016, September 18). Too many of the next generation ready to be a burden on their families and society. The Herald Sun. Retrieved from http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/rita-pana hi/too-many-of-the-next-generation-ready-to-be-a-b urden-on-their-families-and-society/news-story/a94 165c4e296cc380f3f5b8b0220e154
Shaw, R. (2016, September 16). NEETs and tidy: the laziness of blaming everything on young people. Retrieved from http://www.sbs.com.au/comedy/article/2016/09/16/neets-and-tidy-laziness-blaming-everything-young-people
Stein, J. (2013, May). Millennials: the Me Me Me Generation. Time.Retrieved from http://time.com/247/millennials-the-me-me-me-generation/
Tanenhaus, S. (2014, August). Generation Nice The Millennials Are Generation Nice. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/fashion/the-mill ennials-are-generation-nice.html?_r=1