It feels a strange lament. Generation after generation of older people have tutted away and shaken their heads at the ‘youth of today’. It was almost a rite of passage to know that you had become middle aged when you saw something younger people were doing and you disapproved because it was so radical.
Yet, despite having tipped into middle age I do raise my eyebrows and tut about the youth of today but in completely the opposite way. They smoke less, drink less, do drugs less, have no counter or sub cultures; despite being utterly dicked over by numerous governments they don’t protest or riot; they commit far less crime, there are far fewer single parents or teen pregnancies, they eat better and exercise well and get better results in their GCSEs, A-levels and degrees.
It begs me to ask the question, why are young people today so bloody boring?
For me the answer comes down to two things – social media and the internet.
Gone are the days when you could get away with being ludicrously drunk, stoned or pilled up without anyone finding out. Today, you lose your inhibitions and you become a YouTube viral sensation. That clip then can never be erased and the youth of today knows this and knows someone it has happened to. They also know in this day and age, any savvy employers will Google any potential employee to make sure there isn’t some corporate reputational disaster just lurking round the corner. With the debts and lack of decent work opportunities around for new entrants to the workforce, such a risk of being rendered unemployable before even starting on the corporate ladder is unthinkable.
Gone too are the days when your counter or subculture could grow outside of the glare of mass social media. When punk, ska, rock, jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop, jungle, drumnbass, grime, acid house, techno, heavy metal, Madchester, grunge were formed they took years to develop their own identity. Over time, they formed their own uniforms, hairstyles, language, music and opinions about the world. But now, within moments, the beginnings of something that could develop into a new movement are shared across social media and duplicated in milliseconds by multi-national corporations like Adidas and Nike to show that they are ubercool. Yet, by doing so, those subcultures are stopped in their tracks and just become part of yet another brief fad or fashion season rather than a lifestyle for young people to embrace as part of their lives.
Gone are the days of the march or the protest. The last great demonstration occurred pre the internet age against the Iraq War in 2003. It may not have achieved anything (as non-violent protest rarely, if ever, succeeds in its aims), but up to 2million people journeyed from across Britain to London to show their disgust at the proposed invasion. Today the most that can be expected is that a politically savvy young person might sign an e-petition or share a post on Facebook. Partly it is easier, but, partly through fear of being rendered unemployable by a dodgy looking photo or video being shared across the globe. Youngsters can’t afford that sort of 15 minutes of Warhol fame, since now, it is not 15 minutes – it is forever.
Gone are the days of hanging around bus shelters where a teen could explore their sexual, alcohol or drug experimentation with reckless abandon. Why do that when it is easier to stay at home and Snapchat with mates or watch the lashings of available free porn in the private warmth of the family home.
I could easily go on. The point is, the internet and social media, for good or bad, have made teens today dull, corporate machines unable to express themselves or create their own identity. For some, this could be seen as a blessing as all those nasty things that youths do are being put to bed. But all too often we have seen that their is a reaction to such a change – and one that we cannot foresee. But on top of that, I just think it is sad that youngsters are missing out on some laughs and experiences with friends that define a person for the rest of their lives.