An Opinion On Today's Youth Culture
Introduction - A Quick Storytime to Get Started
4:46 pm. The depressing daily event of the sun’s much too early setting passing and my phone finally charged at a satisfying exact 100%. I finally take a gander at it once I tamed the mane that happens to be my hair and put on pants that weren’t made of spandex, when I see the text message that induced my habitual eye rolling. In case it were of any relevance, I happened to be on my way out to meet an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years, and if I am allowed to be honest, wasn’t all that eager to see. Curiosity for many different things enticing me to actually go to this coffee date where no actual coffee would be consumed and just be the normal, decent human being that I was sure I was.
Alas, upon looking at my phone to receive the information that this coffee date wouldn’t even happen thanks to her imminent nervous breakdown, I couldn’t help but sigh, put the phone down and change back into spandex. Her breakdown being imminent for the reason of exams, overdue essays and meh meh meh. I apologize now in advance for sounding so insensitive. I assure you, whoever you may be, that this I am not. It wasn’t her stress level or her cancelling that fueled my annoyance. I would have cancelled on me too if something more important came around, but it was her language and absurd statement with which she concluded her apologetic cancellation that made me realize the severity of this situation.
“It’s just I have this big exam coming up and I didn’t study once and this essay too, I’m sure you get what I mean. God wouldn’t I luck out if a car hit me on the way there? Wouldn’t have to deal with this.”
For the sake of preserving some of your brain cells I took the liberty of omitting the plethora of emojis and incoherent, wrongly placed ‘hahas.’ With or without the superfluous additions to the message only making me dislike it more, the meaning and its even deeper set meaning all stay the same. With my beloved spandex pants on and hair tied up I sat back to realize that although I had only spoken to this girl a handful of times in the last years, and this was the only message she sent me of this sort, I had seen exactly that what she tried to convey much too often. Suddenly a chuckle escaped me when it became so undeniably clear to me. We as young adults, are doing almost absolutely everything wrong.
Part 1: Trend Alert!
One of the things that I began to observe when often confronted with the opinions and thoughts of young adults at university like myself, was that trends seemed to go above and beyond tight confining black necklaces and boots so large that you could probably wear them as pants.
Trends take on many forms thanks to our incredibly impressionable youth with the help of social media and the influence of pretty much anything, and here I bring you some that maybe many don't even realize.
Trend alert: self deprecation is in! Pseudo suicidal remarks are so hot right now! Are you stressed with the abundance of course work? Are you making funny remarks how you'd love to be drowned in your bathtub or hit by a truck to show how hard life is? Well then congrats, you're doing it already. Do not get me wrong, if you are somehow academically involved, it is inevitable that you will be stressed and worked to a pulp. They don't give out degrees for just anything and it is more than okay to feel stressed and over worked, and you aren't alone. Although suddenly it has become a competition of who has it the hardest, and if you aren't curled up in a ball acting on auto pilot with your only fuel being caffeine while pulling an all nighter; are you even doing it right?
Everybody is constantly trying to prove how much harder they have it, and why they deserve a medal for their efforts instead of just simply doing it (or not doing it) and moving on. It is a given that some will simply have more or less to do depending on what they do; but that shouldn’t take the relevance or your feelings about something away just because you find what you do easier than whatever your friend does. It is totally fine to be stressed with that one essay even if your friend has three, but if your friend spends her days filling her social media with how hard life is, while you balance whatever you are doing and silently finish yours, my sympathy will lie with you.
Once upon a time, carrying around white miniature sized dogs in a pink case was considered a statement, and now emotional baggage seems to be the new pooch in a purse.
Part Two: Who Am I?
The situation just happens to be so immensely heavy in irony because we spend our days calling ourselves names, claiming we want to die, yet search for this constant validation from everyone about virtually everything. Nobody truly knows what they think of or how they see themselves until they see a meme and only once they can declare it as ‘so relatable,’ only then is an actual representative classification of their character made.
Way back when grunge music and Myspace were still things and the ‘emo’ kids’ existence was at its all time high, it wasn’t strange to witness a confused youngster utter ridiculous words of self hate and lack of human emotion while abusing black eyeliner and piercing every part of the human body imaginable. Today, much like modern vampires, these ‘emo’ types walk in the sun among us all and wouldn’t necessarily exclusively wear Hot Topic clothing or have a stack of empty neon colored hair dye boxes in the trash. I don’t dare claim that they ceased to exist, they still very much do, but their sad, emotionless, ‘I hate everything’ rhetoric plays host in your normal run of the mill day walker and is becoming a normal way of thinking.
The excruciating irony only continues as we look at our generation on a sociopolitical level to see everyone and their mothers spewing positivity, tolerance and love for all, yet actual human empathy is nowhere to be seen. You are a jackass if you don’t agree with or share that photo demonizing Donald Trump, but hurting an actual friend for real reason doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal anymore. And no, you saying something that can be seen as a universal truth and their ignorance and allegiance to their online persona of the trendy progressive youngster which stops them from seeing it, in turn hurting their feelings doesn’t count and isn’t a reason. That would be called having a difference in opinion, which is another thing that we still cannot deal with apparently.
While this seemingly perpetual sensitivity to almost everything is contradicting and hard to watch sometimes, it does raise the interesting question when regarding what it is collectively doing to us all. It ultimately silences those with any opposing opinion to anything, be it controversial regarding politics or the fact that you prefer ketchup over barbecue sauce. It may seem that this would be situation dependent and topic dependent but it weirdly ties in with the trend of self hate, fake positivity and lack of real empathy. All of those things are just little scraps of glass in the entire mosaic which is our youth culture, but when you constantly give people the feeling that they have to play along to the ideologies and thoughts they see around them (whether they be good or not), they fail to think for themselves and form their own opinions, thus turning into robots that bend over because they assume they should. It may be odd to think about this way since one would look down at it and smile thinking of how kind and accepting everyone seems to be, but it is a robotic pseudo kindness that doesn’t actually exist outside of the device.
Part Three: Robots, Courage and Selfies
Another reason for this robotic behavior is simply that courage as a trait is fading rapidly among us all. Of course, it is always context dependent and do not apply this statement to everyone about every single thing. However courage, and the ability to be accountable for one’s words and responsible for one’s actions is overwhelmingly scarce. Everyone has to be good and great and amazing and sometimes we as humans say things and do things that just aren’t that. In the case of such a thing happening, the ability to truly take accountability for those words, and responsibility for those actions just disappears. There is always someone or something else to blame. There is always a reason.
This silence mentioned earlier comes in once more when realizing that the lack of courage and responsibility may come from an anti trend. The internet has proven that while you may think you can think freely, you really can’t and anything anyone says will be used against them and it is very easy to be deemed an asshole. Being an asshole is so out!
In real life scenarios though, nobody wants to be the asshole because no one wants to feel guilty for hurting someone else. Simple as that. So when the time comes to say things that maybe need be said or you have to put yourself in a situation where you take responsibility for something you might have done, that would mean you would actually have to confront the fact that we all have feelings and hurting someone else’s, makes us feel bad about ourselves.
Because of this example the internet sets for us, it seems to have flooded into our real life relationships and has been made applicable to things we wouldn’t think it would be. People would climb mountains and cross a sea just to avoid it. And while we say we hate ourselves and how much we all ‘look like potatoes’ we don’t want to feel that. We want to think we are amazing and invincible and so we continue to let fear of the unknown, and more importantly, fear of potential backlash control us. The awareness that this is much easier said than done is very real, and there is little to no holier than thou agenda here in these words. The tendency to approach things with caution and coldness happens to be a very relevant practice personally. It doesn’t always happen but occasionally it’s something that can’t be helped, and it took a punch to the stomach, smudged makeup and tear filled tissues to realize that there was a good reason for it and I understood why it is a thing and why it can be okay.
This might stem back to the fact that we are losing all ability to actually co-exist without the help of a device. Yes, Instagram can be fun and we all love a selfie or two, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been caught with my phone at times I probably shouldn’t have been, but to what extent is it collectively being taken? We have become completely emotionally inept to handle human interaction in a way where we act with actual kindness and understanding. We judge each other, and fail to even attempt at understanding what others go through all while sharing a picture of some child crying making us seem compassionate. You might love your family, and like your friends and maybe have had deep connections with many people in your life, but if this unexplained fear silences you and makes it impossible to deal with things and people in the physical and not the virtual world, then you are moving backwards.
Part Four: Fear of Discourse
In linguistics class when on the topic of discourse analysis, I learned that a core concept when dealing with the topic was that “more is being communicated than said.” I would love to jump back in time, find the fellow who said this and tell him he was wrong. Absolutely nothing is being communicated anymore, but all too much is being said. Our voices are the loudest when they aren’t even our voices but the tapping sounds on our screens. Communication with others is always done virtually and I am starting to get extremely sick of it. Sure, the practicality is undeniable and being able to reach your friends at any time and have conversations with minimal effort is great, but it is hindering us from being able to communicate on the spot because we are given the chance to reply whenever, re-write our answers and overthink what we say. That can’t be done when speaking to a person in real life. Of course, any one of my friends would answer my FaceTime call and we would talk like we do in real life, but occasionally when asked more difficult questions on the spot; a slight distance and even discomfort can be noticed.
In comes that fear again. We sometimes refuse verbal communication because we are forced to think on the spot and provide solid content right away, and that is something many people just do not want to do. Maybe some people just do not want to be confronted with the fact that they actually don’t know much about something and don’t have Google to quickly save them, and maybe others just get too nervous. Either way, being nervous and stumbling over words to finally successfully achieve the goal of proper discourse is just a part of the human experience. It isn’t always fun to utter complete nonsense. Take it from someone who often times even made up words non-existent to the English language when nervous enough, but I tell you that once you achieve a normalcy where patchiness was, the feeling is just that much better.
Although we tend to use this virtual communication as a way to buy us time to find the adequate answers or find the perfect excuse for why you can’t go to that Bat-mitzvah, there is still another contradictory core behavioral tendency of our youth culture that plays a role; impatience.
Part Five: Impatience and the Seed
We have all grown to become extremely impatient about many aspects of our personal lives all because of the plethora of instant, well, anythings we get these days. Information on a topic? Instantaneously acquired. Basically any other human need? Also instantaneously acquired. And how happy am I to live in an age where these things are possible. Having a curious mind way back when you had to go to libraries to get information would be hell. Even worse, not being to do anything as easily as we can and that just also happens to be our human nature; evolve to make things as easy as possible with minimal effort. Our speech pioneering ancestors dropped many vowels and sounds in speech for that very reason, so of course it’s nothing new. Though we still like to take it step farther and have basically become the equivalents of temper tantrum throwing toddlers- (say that one three times) - when things don’t happen as quickly, or the way we thought they would.
If you take a seed and throw it in a tiny pot with almost no soil and never water it, do not be surprised or frustrated that it didn’t grow. Common practice would be to believe that the seed was rotten or sabotaged to begin with, or that it should not have taken as long as it was taking so there must be something wrong, instead of giving the damn seed the right environment, nutrients and time. This can be applicable to absolutely anything and if you find yourself applying it back to something while reading it, then you’ve probably done it or seen it being done.
Conclusion - Water the Seed
As much as we would like to try, and as much as I myself try, no one will ever really understand and get the hang of fully understanding today’s youth culture. But seeing through the smoke and mirrors which happens to be the digital aspect that our predecessors didn’t have, basic human nature has stayed and will for the most part, stay the same. We aren’t all that different from our grandparents, we just live through different things and have new values and ideologies, but at core we are the same. They had their own sets of sociopolitical trends, just they weren’t able to broadcast them as loudly as we can.
Today’s trends are what they are, and tomorrow’s might be even more infuriating, or maybe even enlightening. The reality is; unless you decide to throw your devices into a river and move to a remote island, chances are you will live through them, and most likely follow them yourself.
And while the title of this implies how terrible we are, we really aren’t all that bad. The self- deprecation trend is one I try not to follow, but awareness of the bigger issues is very much real and should be looked at. The immense influence and current chaos really isn’t our fault, but we have the choice and the ability to choose how we co-exist with each other, but most importantly, how to exist with ourselves. Finding that middle ground and moderation should be the goal.
You have every right to be stressed about your stupid essay, to have an unpopular opinion, to voice your unpopular opinion, to not always feel happy, to actually like yourself, to not want to hurt someone’s feelings, to be nervous to ask that girl in your economics class out or to just be in a weird state where you aren’t yet sure what you are.
It’s okay if you even find yourself guilty of any of these things, but realize that you can always do better- by you and by others. Try to let your feelings and thoughts rule how and what you do, not the trends the internet or some universal guideline. Give the seed a chance to grow and maybe look at situations from other vantage points, and who knows, maybe it actually will grow into something way better than you could have thought.