As a 25-year old university graduate from a rich and diverse educational background, it’s hard not to get swept up in the post-teenage anxiety of choosing a career that defines who I am as a person while simultaneously drawing envy on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. How else will I cultivate #FOMO in the trembling amygdalas of my peers?
This is ultimate endgame in the shame spiral that is social media, which ends when my arbitrary circle of online friends spans a wider Spirograph than yours and I collapse in a feverish dream of electric Tweets (not before snapping a selfie lying on my pillow and adding a wash of Valencia).
That’s a pretty serious thought, isn’t it? We’re asking our kids to become tiny brand, marketing, & social media managers before they even have the common sense to practice consistently safe sex.
Kids as young as 13 are drawn to careers that bring notoriety without challenge. It makes sense – who wants to toil as an anonymous unpaid intern when they could be a “lifestyle blogger” earning ambiguous ad revenue? Of course, blogging teaches kids entrepreneurialism, and I firmly believe that following certain social media channels can help foster community engagement, political awareness, and build strong networking skills, but it’s all about developing a healthy measuring stick of perspective.
When the entire internet is shouting that your value as a person is measured with two-dimensional metrics such as follower counts, readership stats, and low-resolution picture likes, you start to drink the Social Media Kool-Aid. Within this puddle of artificial flavours and added sugars, Gen Y Special Snowflake Syndrome flourishes like a nasty yeast culture. (Monistat is still awaiting FDA approval)
When was the last time you saw a celebrity chopping onions as a sous chef, or watched a pop star taking a freezing cold smoke break outside the back entrance of a meat-packing factory? Never. Basically, most entry level jobs suck, and they don’t make for interesting Vine material. Practicing funny faces and twerking in your mirror while your banner ads generate passive income is a lot more fun, and you can totally paint your nails while it happens.
Generation Y seems to struggle with career direction more so than previous cohorts. With some exceptions, we are one of the first generations that does not have to worry about our basic human rights being placed in jeopardy (healthcare, education, welfare, gender equality, democratic process, freedom of speech). Of course, many of these rights are currently under contest, but in comparison with historical trends and underdeveloped nations, we have it pretty great.
“Will I eat today if I don’t go into work? Can I afford my medicine if I work a few extra shifts?”
These are not questions that many Gen Ys are forced to ask themselves on a daily basis.
So what happens when Gen Y has to take a job that “they don’t like” to supplement their Youtube Channel revenue? They get entitled. I know, because this was something I struggled with in the months preceding graduation. I was absolutely baffled that nobody wanted to hire me straight away. I was convinced I was special! Couldn’t they appreciate the dozens of extra-curriculars I juggled while maintaining a pretentious 3.8 average and delivering a tastefully nostalgic Valedictory address to thousands of forced attendees in a sticky convention hall? I deserved to work at Google, probably (What do they do again?).
The problem is that, much like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, becoming severely well-rounded (borderline on spherical) means that you might not fit into entry-level triangular job postings. It doesn’t matter how special you are if the job title (much like a Honey Badger) simply doesn’t care.
But this isn’t about hating on twenty-somethings, as fun as they are to turn into an internet punching bag (no small thanks to Thought Catalog). This is about one twenty-something telling other twenty-somethings that it’s okay to feel lost and confused when presented with a reality that doesn’t make sense.
On one hand, we know the world is crumbling around us – socially, the chasm separating the wealthy and destitute is becoming deeper and wider; ecologically, the salinity of the oceans is diluting, causing major shifts in oxygen, temperature, and pH levels, combined with deep losses in biodiversity, genetic diversity, freshwater, and arable land, as well as triggering extreme weather events. Basically, the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the natural world can be visualized as a spinning top reaching the end of its circular momentum, ready to collapse at any moment. On the other hand, have you checked your Klout score lately?
I’m here to tell you that you can swallow your fears of anonymity, take a job outside your field, and still retain a healthy sense of self. You might actually find that you gain a broader understanding of the world around you by exposure to diverse personalities outside your original vocation. If you’re an artist, it’s probably a good idea to avoid lingering around other artists 90% of the time. You can still become an interesting, engaging, entertaining, and valuable person regardless of how you occupy your 9-to-5.
Read a book every time you feel the compulsion to check your feed, and I guarantee you’ll feel ten times more nourished. And the next time you’re struggling to create an interesting Twitter bio, just write “pizza.” It’s probably a lot more accurate, anyway.