Been thinking of doing this post for a very long time. A lot of what I type here has come through observation, interacting with youth and lot also through reading, watching movies, commercials, ads… Most of it is all there and I probably wont be adding anything new… it is just my perspective
Every time I enter a mall, I feel old and dated and completely out of sync with the world. I read stuff on the net and wonder what transformation has happened over the last three years. Actually I should make it last 8 years. Eight years because 2003 was the year when mobile telephony really opened up and mobile phone came easily into the hands of the youth. Coupled with the fact of easy access to information and many other things over the net, the youth grew up. My daughter and son are lot more mature than what I was at their age (at times it feels great but more often than not it is scary).
But coming back to the mall or any other hangout for the youth (movie halls, pubs, night clubs, social networking…) one sees this congregation of youth in the fanciest and trendy attire. You look at the clothes and you know that an effort has been made to either look good or to even look grunge or whatever the word is to dress down. They talk a language you don’t understand. Their views on many things are shocking.. to say the least (for an old foggy like me). And am a big cynic of the so-called research about youth. It is not even close to what reality is… specially in the metros.
The images that I see of youth having a wonderful time… parties, clubbing, riding out overnight to some place and coming back (and all of this is not a metro phenomenon… it happens in small towns too.. it is just that youth over there do not have too many public hang out options) and striving to do something for their future… they show an optimism in life. That gets reflected in the questionnaires that get filled up. Also gets reflected are the family values (sound politically correct too)
Look at them… specially from the eyes of the old.. and you would imagine that this is the best time for the youth. And it at times makes you yearn and wish that you were in this age bracket again. Life seems to have passed you by…
But all of this is just a facade. It hides a lot of things. And the biggest among them is fear… fear of failure.. fear of being mocked… fear of not having a social life… fear of not being ‘with it’… fear of not being good enough.
I have posted the link of a song which typifies all of this and part of the lyrics are:
I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice when I’m not around
You’re so fucking special
I wish I was special
But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell I’m doing here?
I don’t belong here
Acceptance.. to belong drives them and their actions. The brand choices they make… the friends they make… the places they go to.. the time they spend on SNS… the ailment of SUS (status update stress) they suffer from. It all needs to make them part of the group. The New Year Eve’s party invite.. a big thing… “who will invite me… how many invites will I get.. Will I get to party hop… And the excuses I will have to think off if I spend the eve watching trash on tv”… The number of pictures that are posted of parties and wild parties on SNS… it is not so much about having enjoyed… but about having been there…
Back in the old days the stress was in real life and now the youth have carried this stress into the virtual world. It is not enough to be on Facebook and be connected with close friends. It is about how many friends are there on the list. And leads to a lot of stress if the count is low because then their life is up for ridicule for the wide world…
Earlier it is used to be smoking that was a ticket to social acceptance among peers… then it was about drinking and then drugs and now it is about getting inebriated and making out… and keeping count of how many one has made out with… Because not doing so.. would lead to them not getting invited to further parties and being called whatever the slang for prude is now…
The unfortunate part in all of this is that brands, peers and many other influences have exploited that one feeling which leads to all of this… It is loneliness.
This generation is lot lonelier than the previous generation… Being connected through mobile and the web… it has perpetuated a life that is not real… what happens now in real life is what their communities says is the in thing in the virtual world. The youth have become slave to the technology. I have seen these people at various places.. hanging around together.. but no one is talking to each other.. they are all over the phone talking to others who are not there… seriously.. what gives??
This loneliness has driven the youth into many things which deep in their heart they do not want to do but force themselves to do them because they want to belong. Contrary to what Graham Brown and Josh Dhariwal of mobileyouth.org say : “As a brand are you helping me belong or become socially significant”… the urge is still to belong… The ones who want to be significant are part of the group that is leading to yet another of the change that is happening with the youth… selfishness. Being significant is about how I can become more important and better than others in my group. Is their something that would make me the one that the group looks up to and follows..
We are heading towards times when this lonely and selfish generation would grow older.. have children… what will they pass on to their children as values… What are we doing as a society to take cognizance of the pressures that are killing the youth today… Forcing them to change their behavior.. forcing them to stop doing a lot of stuff is not going to be the answer… if anything.. it would lead to further distancing them from us… As brands.. what are we perpetuating… nothing at all… we only feed on their anxiety and fears to make our balance sheets look good. And the biggest example of this… the latest Airtel communication – har ek friend jaroori hota hai… why?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyHkhiXatvk
And here is the link to the song by Radiohead – Creep