Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teenagers in the (fill in the blank) Era: Is there really a difference?

I was inspired to write this post by a tweet from the guys at 'The Buried Life'. The Buried Life is now an MTV show on Mondays at 10 est which shares the adventures of these four guys who are checking off their 'list' of things to do before they die. While doing this they are helping to make a difference in others lives as well. It's definitely a 'must check out' website if you're in any way into helping connect people and make the world a nicer place or into watching people do what you thought might be nearly impossible (like getting into the Playboy Mansion in a cake dressed as Oompa Loompas???). Always inspiring!

Anyhow....this was their tweet:

@theburiedlife "I seriously doubt that facebook has eliminated the angst and alienation of adolescence.." nytime debate. thoughts?
After reading the article and the comments posted by the acclaimed authors I felt a bit like an angsty teen again. I'm not sure if I was channeling the character of 'Catcher in the Rye' or if I was tapping into more deep seeded frustrations with adults and society as I see it. Even though I'm 27, I still have those feelings of alienation and frustration, which brings me to the question of, "Is it teen angst or is it an undertone felt towards the supposed 'adults' of our society who continue to impose their expectations and ideas onto younger generations in hopes of 'fixing' them?"
Take The Buried Life for example or even Lost On Purpose with Katie and I. I'm sure the guys faced a few skeptics, a lot of 'you can't do that', and 'what are you going to do with your life when this little escapade ends?'. At the start of Lost On Purpose, people thought it was going to be just this little trip/vacation and then we would come home and pick up where we left off, when in reality Lost On Purpose became our life, travel became our life and even though we're taking a little hiatus, my intentions are to continue on this travelling journey and I know Katie's are too. I think the only difference between the angst I have now and the angst I had as a teen is that I can do something about it now. My future is my creation, rather than that of a mass trend or obligation to meet the expectations of past generations.
So to come back to the comment about teen angst in today's world, the world of social media and digital communication, I think teens are just as angsty and alienated as they always have been. The difference is that they express it in a virtual world. Although there are people you are connected with online, sometimes cries for help seem lost in space, floating amongst the collective consciousness with no one really ever paying attention. What the teens are screaming is "Can anyone hear me, damnit!?!?!?!?!"
I feel many people find it difficult to listen to anyone who is hurting and difficult to help them and guide them when many still hold on to resentment for people who weren't there for them as a teen. I think phrases like; it would get better, to worry about it later, to let it all out (but in an appropriate time and place), to go for a walk and 'burn off some steam', to stop complaining and do as they was told, were fairly common responses. I still get this at my age! And then years later a censored version of the truth comes out when our parents thing we can 'handle it' we find out what they did when they were teenagers...crying in their room, drinking with friends, doing drugs, riding in cars with boys. Honestly, how can we expect teens to deal with their emotions and frustrations if we were never willing to do the same for ourselves?
I feel like I'm writing like a teen, when in reality I'm sorta stuck in between. I'm going to make a generalization bear with me. I see a world where adults are just as, if not more lost than teenagers are. Their priorities are wrapped up in money, power and competing for the next best thing, in material objects, fame and fortune and creating security that doesn't exist. I also see an adult world that is angry they didn't get to do what they wanted when they were younger and are behaving like angry, rebellious and impulsive teens.
I see a world where teenagers (and children) are left to themselves, to the virtual world of the Internet and television, to figure out how to survive in a world of adults that mistrusts and misjudges youth and each other. I also see teens trying to define themselves within the expectations and obligations the adults in their lives are imposing on them rather than defining themselves around their own values and desires. Quite truthfully, I see a world in which a lot of teenagers and children are parenting their parents.
On the flip side I see a world of hope where adults are reaching out to teens because they see their potential and their determination. I see teens who don't give a shit what anyone thinks they should or shouldn't do and are rocking the world and making a positive impact on the people they come in contact with. I see teens who are following their dreams and getting recognised for their passion and their willingness to stop at nothing to get there and adults willing to mentor them in loving and positive ways that empower them to be better people and encourage them to create the life they desire.
I will say that being connected through the Internet helps with angst as it allows teens to communicate, it allows them to research alternative strategies for living life and to see what the world has to offer, but the one thing it doesn't afford them is the opportunity to express it with the people they feel the most connected to; their family, their parents, the people they look to for guidance and direction.
I think that regardless of the era that teens live in, angst and alienation are's an emotional state of being rather than a physical, tangible thing and if anyone thinks that a physical, tangible thing like a computer or cellphone hooked into social media can change the emotional atmosphere of adolescence for the long term, they may want to reconsider and look at how they're dealing with their own angst and alienation...
Let's talk about our feelings now....shall we? :D lol