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All you need is MXit

by Daniel Friedman / 09.06.2010

There is no turning point at which one wakes up, one day, to find that one is an adult. It’s a gradual process, and in my case not necessarily one that has been fully completed. But occasionally things happen that make me realise that I’m not young anymore. Such as when a study is released about the “youth of today”, and I realise that those who published it are not talking about me. While I may still be young enough to, say, join the ANC Youth League, it has come to my attention recently that, nowadays, there is a new generation of young people out there, and I am not part of it. And ironically, since I have always liked the idea of never fully growing up, and have always identified with youth culture, I find them really annoying and like nothing better than complaining about them.

Last weekend’s Sunday Times featured the Generation Next 8 – 22 Youth Brand Survey, put together by a company called Youth Marketers. What the study said about the youth did not surprise me, but it did depress me. If this study truly does describe the mindset of young South Africans, then they are mindlessly materialistic, their lives are driven by consumption and they want nothing more than to buy what they are being sold.

The study featured a number of graphs. One, in particular, offered an interesting overview of where the minds of young people are at. Titled “Can’t Live Without”, the results were, in this order: “Parents”, followed by “cellphone”, followed by “money”, “parents”, “MXit”, “Friends”, “School”, “Music”, “Bible” and “Love”. Have cell phone companies really been doing their job so well that you prefer their products to your friends, music and even your folks? Is MXit really now officially bigger than love? I fucking hope not.

I really do not want to believe that this is the “generic generation”, less able or willing to look critically at the world than its predecessors, but this seems to be the case. Even a look at what’s happened to my beloved hip hop seems to prove this. We’ve gone from Biggy to T Pain, Tupac to Fiddy. We seem to be losing our edge, getting duller by the decade.

I remember when my grandmother used to go on about the good old days. You know, the whole “when I was your age it only cost three in tuppence to go to the bioscope and you still had enough money to buy an Eskimo Pie”. Rereading this, I am forced to admit that I sound just like my grandmother. And so now I attempt to make sense of this, and decide whether I actually have a point or whether I just can’t accept that I’m getting old.

Some would argue that every generation will find fault in the one that follows it. Lately, though, I’m beginning to think there’s a good reason for this: we’re devolving, each generation becoming just a little bit dumber than the one that preceded it. I do not want to lose my faith in young people. They have the potential to be so much more open-minded, progressive and forward-thinking than people my age. So my message to the kids is this: Think for yourselves, rebel, experiment and do not, by any means, just mindlessly consume. I don’t even want you to give up your beloved MXit, just to understand that people are using it, and using you, to sell things, and you need to take control and make sure it’s you, and not Youth Marketers, Mr Price or KFC in the driving seat. Yes, I’m calling you stupid. But I want nothing more than for you to prove me wrong.

Check out Mr Friedman’s blog here.

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