For years, I’ve been trying to figure out why young people are so relentlessly grim. And, I’m not just talking about millennials — the You-Can’t-Have-Any-Ice cream generation. It’s their children as well, now called Generation Z, as if this is the end of the line for the human species. These folks — pretty much anyone born after 1980 — spend their days acting like corporate accountants who’ve just had a root canal. They could give lessons to Puritans, for God’s sake! And (have you ever noticed?) they always laugh with their teeth clenched – kinda like a Terminator trying to smile.
And there’s no reason for it. We live at the apex of human achievement. There’s more good stuff now — and less bad stuff — than at any other time in history. There should be dancing in the streets. So, what’s the deal? Simple: cell phones. Most young people wander around with a stick up their ass because they know if they step out of line, somebody’s going to video record it, and 20 seconds later they’re going to look like total morons – across the entire planet! Plus, the Internet never forgets. Whatever they say or do today, may come back and haunt them, 10 years from now, when social standards change. This is peer pressure to the Nth degree, and the only way to escape it is keep your head down. Don’t give the cybermob an excuse to come after you. In other words, bland is best.
When I was a kid, I did some stupid things. In my generation, we all did. It was part of growing up. You learned, sometimes painfully, not to be a jackass. However, there was no permanent record in those days. My transgressions were shared, laughed at and admonished by a very small group – who (mostly) had my best interests at heart. Now, time on, they’ve been forgotten, except on rare occasions when old friends get together and play Remember When. I carry no brand for strangers to judge.
These days, young people don’t live with that luxury. They’re all sitting under a cyber Sword of Damocles, one upload away from, at best, humiliation and at worst, disgrace and total ruin. They not only have to fly right, right now; they have to see into the future and measure up, and that has got to be a full time job. It’s no wonder they’re all trudging along as if somebody just shot their puppy.