Young People have always been a mystery to the adults. We look at our kids and see, at once, miracles and enigmas. Young People are, in a parent’s eyes, perfect and also mysterious.
What on earth are they thinking?
Because we don’t really understand them, and because they insist on speaking a different language, we assign all sorts of value to their usually grudging pronouncements.
Last week at the Digital Summit was no different (see here). A panel of three of mysterious Young People followed Communications Minister David Cunliffe’s address, indicating the importance bestowed on their views. I met and chatted to a couple more at the opening night cocktail function.
Adele Barlow, of Ymedia, told delegates that only five years ago sitting alone in your room was considered anti-social — now if you are not connected, you are considered anti-social. Her associate Pamela Minett told the grey ones that “face-time is now Facebook time” and word of mouth is now “word of mouse”.
They talked about how interactivity was creating an active web, replacing the passive one so beloved by, well, their older brothers and sisters.
At the cocktail function, I chatted to Howard Grigg and Kelly Cheesman, who the Department of Labour somehow managed to entice out of their bedrooms. They had “DOL” on their name badges, but informed me they were rounded up to be Young People at the Summit. At that stage they weren’t quite sure their roles, but were relieved when they didn’t see their names on the agenda.
On day two of the conference, just before deadline, I gave Grigg a call to see how he was going. He said the Summit was great. He was pleased the telcos seem, at last, to be able to work together. That said, it was also a relief the agenda had moved on from connectivity to discussions about content.
Now, I’m not against Young People, especially not of the particularly nice variety invited to the Summit (where were the gangstas, DOL?). But it all reminded me a bit of when I worked at the New Zealand Herald, thankfully very briefly, a few years ago. At the Herald, Young People spotted in the corridors were sure to be cornered by some hoary old editor and given a column.
You see, newspapers want to understand Young People too. In fact, they are desperate to understand them. They are so desperate, their attempts to serve youth audiences are, mostly, desperately lame.
Grigg also told me he wasn’t too keen on being pigeonholed, and this, I think, goes to the heart of the lameness in official attempts to understand Young People.
There are, I will posit, Young People who still think sitting alone in a bedroom is anti-social and who are as happy with word-of-mouth as word-of-mouse. Like us in our youth, Young People do speak a different language, but they are generally bi-or even tri-lingual. They speak our language too — when they feel like it.
So Ixnay the Ummitscray, Daddy-O, and etslay get to orkway!