Fame, facebook and future lives

Three pieces in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend got me thinking about the future. I don’t mind thinking about the future – apart from that time K and I were discussing being worried that we won’t have enough super, because that felt like too adult a conversation for someone in their thirties who owns a cape and rollerskates. In fact, I often enjoy thinking about the future. I always have great boots in the future. And great hair. And I’ll be Dr News with Nipples in the future, and what’s not to like about that?

Anyway, my latest future-thinking was about young people. I don’t believe that young people are going to hell in a handbasket because they talk/dress/act differently. It’s just arrogant to assume that the way we did things was the best.

So, the first piece, by Tim Elliott – I wanna be famous – started as you’d expect, about how back in our day, kids wanted to be doctors and lawyers, but now they want to be famous. I’m Gen X. In general, we suck at self-promotion. Gen Y is much better at that, and that’s a good thing. (Check out those sweeping generalisations.)

This hand-wringing also ignores the fact that a) what kids say they want to be when they grow up is usually very different to what they actually end up doing, and b) university enrolments are the highest they’ve ever been. And it also assumes that there’s something wrong with wanting to be famous. No one would think it odd if I said I wanted to be a famous academic/writer/journalist.

A similar study in Britain last year found that the top three career aspirations for five to 11-year-olds were sports star, pop star and actor, compared with teacher, banker and doctor 25 years ago.

When my brother was five he said he wanted to be a firetruck. Kids say all sorts of shit, and I can’t see anything wrong with wanting to be a sports star (physically active), pop star (musical) or actor (creative).

Professor Wyn, who as a child dreamed of being a postie (”because they got to ride their bike all day”), believes that ”what do you want to be when you grow up?” is a boomer question for a 2000s audience. ”Many kids don’t have a clear idea what they want to be because people these days are going to be lots of things, and kids know that.”

Not only is it an outdated question, but how many of the jobs that your friends are doing now actually existed when you were in primary school? Even when I was in high school, our careers adviser (who was very good) wasn’t talking about web developing, or data managing, or environmental consulting.

The two other pieces – Peep show can claim a price by Judith Ireland, and On YouTube, all the world’s a stage by Rachel Olding – talk about facebook and YouTube being outlets for narcissism. Yawn. That is just being smug. And it misses the point that these things are just another part of people’s lives, like having a phone and using email. Besides, a journo calling someone a narcissist because they like to broadcast themselves is pretty funny.

8 responses to “Fame, facebook and future lives

  1. I saw that first piece and discussed it with fellow lawyer type (ie Tim) who cynically observed that probably it’s never the kids who say they want to be lawyers, but their parents, which is a fair call – I can see wanting to be a doctor (you get to make people better) but what little kid wants to shove lots of paper around and use Latin words? Even I didn’t get the lawyer bug till I was 13!!!

    • Ahoy Lorana, welcome to the News with Nipples. I can’t imagine any five-year-old wanting to be a lawyer unless they happened to know lawyers. Because how would they even know about lawyers? As a kid I wanted to be a scientist because they wore white coats and worked in a lab. (Lucky I didn’t go down that path, because I look shit in white.) And then from the age of 10 until now, I didn’t know. I still sort of don’t know.

  2. When I was little I wanted to be Inga the Winger*. And that was it. My entire family still finds this funny and my entire 21st speech was pretty much “She never got to be Inga the Winger”.

    I was destined to become a journalist because my father is one and I’m a Daddy’s Girl.

    The other annoying myth that’s always trotted out about Gen Y is that they churn through jobs/professions like no other generation ever has.

    My sister (Gen X) has had three different professions: Psychologist, Teacher, Mother and she’s 30.

    I’ve only ever been a journo. Probably always will be even though it’s such a sucky profession. And totally agree on the whole Pot, Kettle, Black, Journo, Narcissist thing.

    *Inga the Winga – Va’aiga Tuigamala, All Black from 1989 to 1993.

  3. Boganette – did you know Inga is now a funeral director?

    • Yeah and he’s also a Christian fundamentalist who supports the National Party 😦 I try to remember the old Inga. The old Inga was the best Inga.

  4. strange you should have a blog on this, I was having bizarre thoughts last night trying to go to sleep and one was about how we are (particularly our generation) defined as a person by what you do as a job and equally disregarded when you don’t have a definitive career or are ‘just a housewife’. i.e.. you are a geeky type so no one is surprised you are a web designer, you are good at writing and inquisitive so you are a journalist etc. Then I got to thinking that when my mum was young or even when I was young, that there just weren’t as many types of jobs around and a lot of them certainly were not open to women as they are now and there were less of this judgements and expectations. There wasn’t the finance sector there is now (it existed but was wasn’t as widespread and supported by a myriad other service industries as it is now), there were very few IT roles, certainly no web designers cos there was no web etc. I wanted to be lawyer when I was little but that is cos my dad wanted me to be lawyer and this thought osmosis’d (made up word) itself into my thoughts. My career advisor said I would be a civil servant. I remember being very affronted by this at the time and well…I’m now a policy analyst (aka public servant) so I guess she was spot on.

    • Ooh, synchronicity. I do think “what do you want to be when you grow up” is an outdated question because it assumes you’ll be just one thing – and, as you say, defined by your job. But teenagers do need to think about what they want to do when they leave school, so I guess we can’t get away from the question.

  5. Also I was thinking about a woman I know who was a successful career woman (for want of a better term) and she has recently had 2 children. she ended up finishing up with her company when pregnant with the second child (a long story on its own). Now she has no job to return to. She is busy enough to not be able to fit work in with 2 small kids, but I know she feels slightly lost knowing there is no job at the end of the maternity leave tunnel or when the kids get a bit older and start school. This is partly about money, and within that about her wanting to be a contributor to the household purse, but its mainly about her identity and self worth as a successful educated hard working woman. Yes being a mum is a hard and rewarding job and she is busier than she has ever been, but it goes back to what we were talking about around your job being your ‘self identity”. She wants a new career but is not sure what doing as she doesn’t want to return to her old field and I think she feels a bit lost without knowing what it is she IS now, apart from a mother and a wife…noting that I am not denigrating these roles.

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