Thursday, 7 August 2014

Generation Sensible

Young people: Drunks. Drug-users. Promiscuous partiers.

Or not.

Over the past few weeks I’ve read an increasing number of articles about how today’s young people are in fact turning away from the reckless behaviour we under-25s have long been known for.

Despite what everyone hears about student antics (the Neknomination trend certainly didn’t help), the heaviest drinkers in the UK are now the 45-54 age group. Yup, we’re looking at you, parents.

Recent figures show that the number of 11-15 year olds who drink dropped from 25% to 9% over the past ten years, and amongst the same age group the number admitting to ever taking drugs fell to 16%, down from 26% in 2001.

These figures may be only for young teenagers, but as a 21-year-old I’ve certainly noticed the trend amongst my own age group too.

A wild night of snapchatting (you can see how much fun I'm having!)
I am a self-confessed and unashamed good girl. I’ve never taken drugs or done so much as touch a cigarette, I don’t drink to excess, and I always do my homework.

And before you denounce me as a freak who needs to get a life, I know I’m not alone.

It’s been said that the reason we’re less interested in addictive, dangerous substances is because we have another addiction. Something we can’t live without. Something on which we’re totally hooked.

The internet.

And from my own experience, I can say that sounds kinda true. I get twitchy if I have to go a whole day without internet (*shudders thinking about it*), I can’t go much more than five minutes without checking my phone, I probably spend around 95% of my waking hours looking at a screen, and I’m constantly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Whatsapp.

While this internet-dependency may play a part in the transformation of today’s youth and our lack of interest in drugs and booze, I don’t think that’s the whole story.

The fact of the matter is, times are hard. And don’t we know it.

Day in day out, we’re bombarded with the news that there aren’t enough jobs for young people, we won’t get on the housing ladder until we’re 73, and doing the bare minimum to scrape through exams simply isn’t good enough.

We gots to work hard!

Despite our love of the internet, young people aren’t just whiling our days away on Facebook or taking Buzzfeed quizzes (although that does occur too – you’ve gotta know which Inbetweener you are, right?).

No, we’re busier than ever, studying into the wee hours while simultaneously finding time to play the lead in a musical, organise a society ball, climb a mountain for charity, run for student elections, edit the uni paper and work a part-time job. Oh, and we also do unpaid internships every school/uni holiday.

In 'Anything Goes' at uni
Remember that one time I ran 10K?
Guess what? We’re exhaauuuusted.

Personally, I really enjoy doing everything I do, but we all know we need these extra-curriculars to boost our CVs too.

Who has the time or energy to go out boozing every night when you’ve got essays to write on top of everything else? Not this gal.

And d’you know what? I think being good is cool these days. Well, cooler than it has been anyway.

It’s partly thanks to the likes of Zooey Deschanel, the Duchess of Cambridge and Mindy Kaling (for girls at least) that I think more and more of us are embracing our inner good girls. I for one think it's a wonderful thing if girls no longer feel pressure to do things (drugs or otherwise) they don't really want to do, purely for the sake of seeming "cool."

Young people today are reinventing traditionally fuddy-duddy activities in a quirky, ironic way. I’m talking about everything from knitting to baking (who even are you if you don’t watch GBBO?)

I made a bobble hat. (This was just the start, obvs.)
The finished hat
We instagram our wild Saturday nights involving cups of tea and Disney films, we tweet about our late nights revising, and we post facebook statuses about our new jobs. Not only are young people not afraid of being perceived in this less than “cool” way, a lot of us actively want to cultivate that image for ourselves.

Proof from my Instagram:

It’s my 22nd birthday next month, and do you know what’s on my wish list? (I’m not too old for a list, right?) Some of you may indeed already know this seeing as I tweeted about it, but I’ll fill you in: a food processor, a blender, a water filter, a spiraliser, an epilator and some sensible shoes. So yeah, I’m basically 21 going on 45. And I’m not even remotely embarrassed about it.

I’m sensible. I’m responsible. I work hard. I’m ambitious. I don’t wish to destroy my liver or lungs through abuse of harmful substances. I’m proud to be how I am and I know I’m not alone.

That said, I’m not trying to say everyone under the age of 25 is as prematurely middle-aged as moi, far from it. There are still tons of young people who get high as kites and off their faces multiple times a week. At uni, just as there are students who spend all day with their heads in textbooks, there are those who skip lectures, fail their exams, don’t hand in essays and simply couldn’t care less.

And hey, even the good gals like myself enjoy letting their hair down! I laaaave a good party as much as the next 21-year-old. Give me a glass of Champers or a Malibu & Diet Coke and just you watch me go! When 1D comes on, you can’t keep me off the dance floor. (If you don’t believe me, ask my friends about the Uni Arts Ball last year. But maybe don’t ask them for too much detail.)

"That's what makes you beautifuuul!"
Speaking of bad dancing, it turns out it’s our parents who are now the wild ones. OK, not my parents, but recent studies have shown that it’s the 40+ lot who are now drinking too much most nights of the weeks and experimenting with drugs. I hear drugs are expensive, so I suppose it kinda makes sense that the oldies are more able to smoke the occasional spliff than the youths. Kinda. Ish.

The thing is, our parents had it pretty great. For their generation, I’m told that if you worked hard as a young professional you could really get on. The economy was doing well and you could start moving up the career ladder like that. *snaps fingers*

Not so much anymore, eh?

But instead of wallowing in despair at the prospect of lifelong unemployment, we’re working hard to try and prevent that happening.

My parents think I’m going to go off the rails in my 40s. Maybe they’re right. I mean, aren’t young people meant to be crazy and stupid and break the rules and make mistakes? I sometimes worry I’m going to regret (nearly) always being the good girl, but a colleague recently said something to me that really hit home.

We were discussing always being good, and he asked me if I was happy. I replied truthfully: yes. He said everything is fine then, and he’s right. (It’s with wisdom like that that you get to be a BBC correspondent, eh?)

At the end of the day I am happy and you can’t force yourself to be wild and crazy and bad if you’re just not.

What’s more, we’ve grown up being taught how harmful drink, drugs and cigarettes are, and so we’re just not as interested as our elders may have been. We’re not idiots. 

Although we do occasionally enjoy a Spritz!
I think it's a real shame young people are so often tarnished with the same brush - why must we all be made out to be one type of person? Maybe now it's starting to change.

So here’s to Generation Sensible! May we get on in life and still have a lot of fun doing so.

Do y’all agree with me?

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  1. Since starting uni I've been in a club twice. The first time I left after 20 minutes, and the second time I had a panic attack. So call me weird if you like, but I'd rather stay in with 4od and a batch of cookies!

    1. Ha ha we are so on the same page, Lydia!

  2. I love this post! It's so relevant at the moment, and I agree completely that youths are getting smarter about the whole 'cool image' thing. Great post :)

    1. Thanks, Abbie. So glad you're with me on this one! :)

  3. I've never been in a club, just so not my scene! Last year me and my housemates cuddled up on the sofa watching bake off (including the CBBC version!). I love a good pub, but clubbing isn't for me.

    Also on the sensible side - my 21st wishlist includes a decent casserole dish, a brown betty teapot and some wellies...x

  4. brilliant post Rachel- such an interesting read and I totally agree that the attitude towards our generation needs to change! xxx

    1. Thank you, Katie, and I'm glad you agree! x

  5. What a great post,Rachel. It's so true! And you called us so right - 'generation sensible'. I'm the same. I don't like clubs and I don't smoke. Sometimes I love to spend time at home and I don't think it's boring. I'm family person...A lot of my friends here in Ukraine are the same...The part about Internet is great, i think this our addiction really can be the reason whu we don't do other bad things...Your post arrived just in time when I was thinking about this new image of young girl a lot...And how can you relate the generation sensible with hipsters?)))

    1. Thanks Kate. Interesting to hear you can relate despite being in a completely different part of the world. And yes, hipsters really are something else, aren't they? ha ha :)

  6. I don't think we're in complitely different part. Even during horrible events that are going on now in my country. Mentally most part of Ukrainians are europeans as much as Polish people or Chezh...It's well-known from our history that was much more related with Vikings and Western countries than with Russia or Asia. But it's the long subject to talk about))
    I think hipsters are different,but sometimes they have the common things - for example, they like reading books, travelling and are ambitious too (I mean career plans etc) :) But we're not hipsters, right?)


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