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Not only is it an outdated question, but how many of the jobs that your friends are doing now actually existed when you were in primary school?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.