The youth of today, some people declare, are narcissistic and obsessed with appearance and popularity.
The evidence for this is pretty clear. In her article in The Courier-Mail of 10 June 2013, “World of Y is made in their image” http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/world-of-y-is-made-in-their-image/story-fnihsr9v-1226660911988 Karen Brooks declares today’s teens are “screenagers”, jockeying for fame and recognition from a bunch of “friends” on Facebook. They effectively turn themselves into a brand, she writes, updating that brand and marketing themselves constantly. Appearance, it seems, is all that matters, and getting your appearance out there is equally important.
There is, methinks, much reason in her sayings. She goes on to declare that the people responsible for this are the parents. And she is right, there, too. Coddling children, protecting them from harm and the need to make decisions, and, moreover, providing them with the technology to communicate 24/7, has a big part to play in all this.
I was discussing things with a teenager recently about the propensity for her generation to exhibit the minutiae of their lives online. One example we discussed was the habit some people have of taking a picture of what they are currently eating and posting it as a picture on Facebook. Do I really want to see that? Really? So you enjoyed the meal. Great. But you took a picture of it before you ate it, so how did you know it was going to be so fantastic that everyone needed to see what it was? Oh, I see, you just thought we might be interested. Sorry, no.
Even my Facebook page, which has an appropriate proportion of adults as friends, is subject to this kind of post.
And selfies. Let me talk about selfies. You know what they are, those pictures taken with a phone camera, usually looking in a mirror or held at arm’s length so a number of friends can cram their heads together, mouths open and say “Look at us! We’re important!” Then the subject of the pic posts it on their social network.
No harm in that, really. Not unless they are in their underwear or doing something inappropriate. But I just don’t really want to see it. I don’t care you are, I don’t care what you’re wearing. Well, not always. Depends on who is in the underwear. I must confess I did take a selfie once, and sent it to someone, but it was just for them and not for posting for the whole world to see. I trusted the person I sent it to not to send it on, and they haven’t so far. Besides, you couldn’t see my face. Well and good.
So, you ask, if I am guilty of posting a selfie, why should I criticise those who do?
Well, for a start, as I said, it was only for private consumption, not general viewing. I got one back from them, and it remains private in my files. For another thing, it’s probably not something teenagers should be doing. A girl posts a picture of herself in a rude pose or wearing (or not) something alluring, and sends it to her current squeeze. The boyfriend may get a thrill out of it, but boys will be boys, and he can post that on to whoever he likes. And probably does.
So the obsessed Me Generation (or the “Millenials” as Joel Stern calls them), are a product of our desire to invent machines that can keep us in constant, if unnecessary, communication with everyone all the time, and our desire to coddle and protect the young. Not much we can do about it, I expect.
Except that we can, of course, try to cut down on texting, and sexting, and twittering, and social media-ing. I was waiting for a bus the other night in the city at peak hour. Of the forty-odd people (or forty odd people, including me) only three, including myself, were not using their phones or iPads for various purposes. I guess they felt the need to text someone urgently, or check their emails, or watch the news or the sports, or see what someone had for lunch, or see if anyone liked what they had for lunch. Nothing, I maintain, that couldn’t wait until they got home.
It wasn’t just the screenagers doing this. There were adults, too.
It’s a bit much, really.
So don’t send me a selfie. Not unless you have a good body. Then, please.