Youth entitlement: a perennial fantasy notion applied to every younger generation in perpetuity. It’ll never go away, because it never ever actually gets the chance. It sort of just transfers from one aging generation to the next, as time passes and newer targets, now more righteous than ever, come along.
We’ve all had the “kids these days” cliché applied to us, and my guess is that someday my generation will pick up the torch and join the chorus. It’s a given.
In the meantime, however, while I still hold on to my youth, it’s time to rattle against this baseless claim. Because any notion of youth entitlement is almost always without reason — an accusation grounded on the norms and expectations of decades ago.
In a recent opinion piece entitled “We’re not lazy: why Gen Y has tuned out of the election” on CBC.ca, Candice Walsh explains what she feels is the reason young people have turned off from municipal elections, even as campaigns are getting into full swing. In her view, the disconnect with youth is largely based on a reluctance from candidates to embrace newer platforms available to them to communicate with voters.
Walsh argues that youth care about their communities, but that candidates in municipal elections haven’t yet been successful in effectively taking to social media sites such as Twitter to reach young voters. In doing so, she says they miss out on an opportunity to capitalize on a forum for meaningful public discourse on issues that matter to youth, using social networks that young people are far more connected to than any other forms of traditional media.
Walsh adds that most young people “live online,” and says she doesn’t even have cable TV. One could assume she probably doesn’t buy a daily newspaper either, something that probably applies to lots of young people, especially students studying at college or university in St. John’s.
Without the presence of municipal politics in their social media spheres, it’s easy for young people to become disinterested and unfazed by municipal elections. As she writes, young people are very “plugged-in,” but if candidates don’t connect, their message won’t reach younger voters.
Admittedly, Walsh is a little severe in her appraisal of today’s youth. It is perhaps a tad simplistic to attribute the success of the politicians she references — Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and U.S. President Barack Obama — with young people to their charisma alone. I’d like to think that people my age are making conscious decisions at the ballot box that are at least not purely based on celebrity appeal.
But she makes some valid points in reference to how candidates have to be more conscious of the media that are available to them, and their changing role in reaching (and not reaching) potential voters. Scroll down to the comments section, however, and you find some pretty jarring reactions to her message.
Surprise, surprise, to many readers, an article on why youth aren’t involved translates into a story that doesn’t substantiate young people’s lack of involvement in municipal politics, but rather entrenches a belief in a coddled, privileged generation that has developed a smothering sense of entitlement.
“You think it should be laid out for you,” says Wayne49. Score1 adds “Well — generation ‘Y’ … seem to be in it for what they can get for free.”
Another commentator deplores a generation that tunes out after 140 characters.
You know what, though? We’re not lazy, and more importantly, we’re not entitled. What we are is the most connected generation in history, and the first that’s capable of choosing the media we wish to subscribe to from a million sources.
The ways by which we get our information may be different, demanding more immediacy and yes, requiring more succinctness. But they are more concise and more personalized — and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So, rather than deplore a generation for being too “lazy” for not subscribing to media they typically don’t use, or for any reason really, think twice. We are an informed generation.
Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is enrolled in the journalism program at Carleton University. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.