Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The internet ruined the Millenials.

It has become a concern of mine that my generation, the younger section of the Millenials, a term that makes us sound like wise, post-human ethereal beings, are anything but.

As more of my creative friends are dragged into the disused quarry that is the dire employment cycle of 2013, I've started looking at not only myself and my friends and family but the people I converse with online and even the writers I admire in newspapers, magazines and in blogs. I think we're all dying out.

I can't think of a time when it was easier to distract yourself. I'm doing it right now. I have a list right next to me of articles I could be researching for, articles I need to write, jobs that need to be finished and tasks to do for work, but I've chosen to write this instead. It's on the internet. It doesn't seem like a real time commitment.

I see so many talented people having interesting debates online on a daily basis that could be put towards some really groundbreaking work. They never will be. This is not meant in a disparaging way - creative types have always procrastinated - only that it saddens me so many ideas will go un-explored thanks to how quickly they can be shared, talked about and forgotten.

I wonder if some of the world's greatest philosophers would have managed to change the course of thinking forever had Twitter been around in their day. They'd have managed a good few thousand RTs perhaps (if they'd had a decent following, been picked up by a Blue Tick-er or had written it without punctuation for the Weird Twitter crowd) but they might never have gotten round to picking apart their ideas in a book. They might have become more introverted, speaking their minds only behind a computer screen, discouraging them from attending conferences and making speeches and lectures. It's a hypothetical situation but one that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

More than this, our generation in the West is seen as living out an endless childhood. How can a member of it be taken seriously? Those before us lived through what were perceived to be Real Hardships - wars on their doorsteps, breadline poverty, mills and factories, unequal rights - see us as spoiled or even, to my constant exasperation, ungrateful. Thanks to the incredible lives our predecessors lived we are free to use the benefits they accumulated to spend our lives in a constant state of purgatory, drifting from one thing to the next, living for the weekend in a life more-or-less unchallenged by society or hardship.

We don't always choose that life. As perpetual children of plenty we're, unfairly and wrongly, never really expected to accomplish or achieve anything of much worth. It's partly our fault - fetishising cupcakes, spending our time doing nothing in particular, wallowing in self-pity - I feel like I am still a teenager, but I'm not. I'm at an age where many of my heroes had already begun their roads.

The worst part is, I know what I want my contributions to be, I'm just not doing anything about it. For many (or perhaps most) that realisation of where you want to be hasn't occurred yet and that's a true challenge, one that should never be scoffed at. Our generation has been told by those previously mentioned parents and grandparents who lived through True Hardships not to spend our lives using each day up doing something we hate. The result of this well-meaning worldly advice is that for the most part we feel we are wasting our lives, endlessly trying to reach some happy living Nirvana where time isn't the enemy and activities are meaningful instead of guilt-laden distractions from the real world.

I know that a great deal of my friends and acquaintances have Plans. These Plans have been sitting in folders and in notebooks for months, perhaps years; thought about daily but never acted upon. These Plans might not be fully-formed yet, but they are meaningful enough to keep close, like some desktop talisman glowing from the inside, promising a better life somewhere in the non-specified future. It could be the basic construction of the beginning of a novel (yes, that's me). It could be a spreadsheet detailing how enough money could be saved in a year to go travelling, to go back to university or to start that business you always wanted. It could be a photo album of people you want to get back in touch with, who you know make you a better person, who will be the key to achieving what you want in life. It could be a basic scribbled-down note of realisation that something needs to change, but you're not sure what.

I know one thing - while we're stuck in unfulfilling online purgatory, none of these things will ever be realised. I don't like what this could mean. The internet is a creative chimera - the perfect place to share ideas, research in depth from the comfort of your home and to blow off steam, but it's also the most effective time-sapping device ever created by nature or man, destroying good intentions and wasting days of our lives. If I was the conspirational sort I'd say that perhaps social networking was devised to stop the creative types of the world from doing anything at all.

You could say that it has enabled more people than ever to question the motives of those in power, that it has given the masses access to huge amounts of information and data. You could say that it offers a total and complete resource to find out anything you could ever need to know. You could talk about how it is the perfect place for like-minded people to share ideas, thoughts and values. This is all true. What is being done with this new-found activism though? Are we creating more, doing more? Or are we endlessly recycling it, forming opinions or ideas and then going to make another cup of tea?

We are making ourselves feel impotent when we are not.

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