Youth as "the Problem"
by Aimee Rickman
Young Americans are derided for many things: being materialistic, being consumers, being obsessed with celebrity, being apathetic, being sexually promiscuous (well, really for being sexual), being uneducated, being drunken idiots. Not long ago, I spent the afternoon listening to stern adult voices calling into to a local public radio afternoon talk show on "emerging adults" to say that the "problem with young people" is all of these things. The final call-in voice, though, affirmed a widely spoken sentiment saying that the combination of youth and technology is really the core of "the problem." This caller summed it up by saying that youth culture has "entirely changed," as young people "are too busy punching on their cellphones" This, he said, makes them uninterested in the world and in contributing to "the common good." This, he said, makes their attention span shorter and shorter. This, he said, makes them interested in only "shopping and throwing things out," and not in making something of their life. This, he said, is "the problem" -- youth and technology.
At the time, I found this analysis profoundly lacking, especially since I had just watching the national news focus their coverage -- in between the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor and updates on the whereabouts of Lady Gaga -- upon the new layout of Facebook while entirely overlooking the continuing mass occupation of New York's Wall Street by young people fed up with bankers floating above the recession they caused, the employment opportunities they took away, the homes they broke, the American lives they continue to damage. I continue to find it so as fashions of the Oscars, feats of the Olympics, scandalous behavior of the celebrities, and line-up changes of the late-night television hosts find their way to me packaged as important news.
I spent the week reading forwarded online petitions calling for different actions because females'/non-straight people's/immigrants'/poor people's rights are somehow consistently allowed to be effective pawns used to distract effort and attention away from the rest of the game being played by those hawking the American Dream.
I spent the week dodging ads pitching liquors and military enrollment and products that would make me more desirable and less inadequate and more powerful and more like Jennifer Hudson as I attended to email and walked to work and tried to keep up with the world.
I spent the week thinking about how when adults are ontologically anxious, young people and their private, adult-free involvements -- be it peers, comic books, video games, silly band bracelets, music, hair styles, dancing, or "phones with all those aps" -- become easy and tangible (and probably pretty cathartic) scapegoats for their worries. Heck, everyone can gripe about "kids today" to their neighbors and feel some reprieve from their social isolation and frustration as they bond over an increasingly rare something in common.
So many issues. But still, we choose to say youth and technology are "the problem." I, for one, am not buying it. You?