Published on November 13, 2013 | by Matthew Hook

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The internet stole my future

I’m part of a generation that gets a lot of stick.

We’re the first of a new wave of people with no hope of employment or political representation.

Some of it’s not our fault, there’s the whole corporate and government oppression thing too, but I’m told a lot of it is all on us.

According to the leading names in some field of science somewhere we all live with our parents, need constant stimulation and struggle with any sum of money exceeding double digits.

We’re told that our comfortable upbringings and internet dependence have collapsed our capacity for concentration, long-term thinking and hard work.

I’m offended; how can an entire generation of people be demonised so casually?

Of course, in my case they’re kind of right.

I’m a millennial, part of Generation Y, and as such I’ve lived through the beginning of an exciting new digital age. Upon learning to walk and talk I quickly took up and mastered the Game Boy and the keyboard.

I think I was probably a telecommunications expert as well; pretty handy with a mobile phone after thousands of games of Snake on my mum’s Nokia.

My parents, being a part of the optimistic and financially fortuitous army of baby boomers that birthed us, raised me to think I was special. All I needed to succeed was the right encouragement and my natural brilliance would blossom like the rare flower that I am.

When I left for uni I was ready for my success to come running to me like a devoted labrador, money pouring out of its mouth, violently humping my leg.

It was shortly after that I realised I had no idea what I wanted to do and whether I was actually good at anything.

I’m surrounded by dedicated young arts students who know exactly where they’re going with their lives and are already well on their way. I have all kinds of admiration for them and wish them all the best, but they really need to go and succeed somewhere quiet and out of sight.

It bothers me that I have no incredible talent. I’ve gone through too many five minute obsessions to count. Some of my ambitions were pretty standard: author and artist are the most cringeworthy. But I was also going to master the bonsai tree and collect tropical fish.

Our pace of life is extraordinarily faster than our parents. We’re used to instant news, music, film, status updates. We’re so used to the instant reward that the long term seems like far too much effort to think about.

I knew that I was supposed to practice and practice and eventually I’d probably be the best in the game. But as I took up each new passion project, I realised I wasn’t instantly brilliant. I was surprised when I didn’t immediately take to whatever fleeting obsession I was into on that day. I may be the only one, but there’s a chance the issue is a little more far reaching.

The world has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Our pace of life is extraordinarily faster than our parents. We’re used to instant news, music, film, status updates. We’re so used to the instant reward that the long-term seems like far too much effort to think about.

Why would you slave over an essay for weeks towards a degree that won’t necessarily be worth it, when you could get stuck deep into a Netflix binge? We’re not even sure if there are jobs to work towards.

This isn’t a universal problem – there are plenty of healthy, well adjusted minds in Gen Y – but it’s growing. As children are brought up with every possible kind of entertainment, intangible long-term rewards become less and less significant and in our minds at least, less attainable.

The internet keeps us wired into a constant stream of images and sound which, in earlier generations, would have had to come from sources that required even the slightest effort to enjoy. Previously, fighting off boredom meant mastering the oboe. Now it’s possible to find every genre of music you could ever need and then more. There’s so much music available now that we’re having to invent new genres every five minutes to handle it. It’s a full-time commitment just listening.

It’s easy to fall into an endless spiral of YouTube, iPlayer, Tumblr and Facebook. They are, in the short term, far more rewarding. I’m yet to find out what my lack of long-term commitment is going to inflict on me later down the line; it’s a constant battle with distraction that I’m waging.

I suspect that I’ll be okay, that somehow it’ll all come together and I’ll be just fine. But there’s always what could’ve been. If I’d been a little more disciplined, where would I be now? What exciting future did I pass up for a two-week long Parks and Recreation marathon?

 

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