Friday, February 01, 2008

Charlie Stross profiles today's UK teens. Slashing?

Charles Stross, a top-rank science fiction writer almost as old as me, decided his business requires a profile of today's 18 year old. He's published a UK version of the Beloit College list he references:
Charlie's Diary: Youth of today:

I am a forty-something, which means I am out of touch with what passes for common knowledge among 18 year olds today. (Dodgy joke about keeping in touch with 18 year olds deleted in the interests of good taste.) Beloit College in the USA used to maintain a list for their staff, to explain what the world looks like to an 18 year old freshman: here's their 2006 list. It's heavily biased towards (obviously) American 18 year olds, but it got me thinking...

...Lots of people take antidepressants. Everyone slashes themselves; it's no big deal. (Statistics show a third of UK teens self-harm at some stage.)...

...There have always been cameras in shops and schools and other public places, although there are more of them than there used to be. Old folks grumble about privacy, but really, you're being watched wherever you are. If you don't like it, get a hoodie.
Slashing?! Geez, I really am a geezer. I don't think the US frequency is that high but I expect I'll find out (my oldest is 11). Forearm scars are not currently a winning point in job interviews.

Soon 18 year old Americans won't remember when smoking tobacco was a socially acceptable adult activity, but from a recent visit to the UK I know that's not true there.

Update: The comments are great, including some from the target demographic. I particularly liked Alex Gurney's remarks:

The word "digital" feels strange in "digital camera", "digital TV", "digital music", etc., since of course these things are digital. You have no idea why a "digital watch" or "digital alarm clock" would ever have seemed exciting or futuristic.

You either do not care about politics, or you obsessively follow political news, polls and statistics. Either way, you probably do not vote.

You think nothing of changing your phone handset or provider every few months. It would never occur to you to repair, rather than replace, broken electronic equipment. Even so, your data is far more important than the device, since you view phones, cameras and computers as essentially disposable.

You have never had to wait to get photos developed.

Anything which you have and don't want will probably get sold on eBay.

2 comments:

alanbooker said...

The comments are spot on Gordon. I have 18 year old triplets, 2 girls and a boy. I believe this to be more of a problem that the available data would support. “Over ten percent of teenagers are thought to have at least experimented with self-mutilation.” http://www.psychiatric-disorders.com/articles/warning-signs/self-mutilation.php

Analog, as in analog watch, probably has zero meaning to teens but the comment on socialization being an important concern is also right on. Hoodies in the UK are banned in many places, I wonder why, and IM is the life blood of my teenager girls, my son is a bit more of a mystery though! Alan.

John Gordon said...

The IM thing is a wonder to geezers like me. It's also an incredible boon to the phone industry -- billions in revenue for basically no costs. IM is paying for the wireless bids. No wonder Google wants to kill the cell company IM business.

I think the local AT&T store told me one (female) teen had sent on the order of 20,000 IMs in one month. Pathologic probably, but astounding.

An alien species!

Thanks for the comment on self-mutilation. It sounds like we're only a few years behind the UK. What a joy!

18 yo triplets -- I'm impressed that you're still able to write!