look, i get it, i used to be a selfie hater as well. i used to see girls taking seflies and think “oh, that’s so vain and shallow, gross” and selfies when traveling? how stupid
but then i spent a semester traveling with someone who insisted on taking selfies every time we saw something cool. “but i don’t want to”, i’d say, and do you know what she told me? she said “look, you’re never gonna go somewhere that no one else has been. if you look up the places you’ve visited on google images, you’re going to see tons of photos of the place that are more beautiful than the ones you can take yourself. but do you know what you’ll never be able to find on google images? a picture of the place with you and the people you care about in it, having fun”
and ever since then i have been 100% on board the selfie train
but the thing is, even when you’re not traveling- selfies are a way of controlling your own image. it’s about presenting yourself the way you want to be presented and not letting anyone else have power over how other people see you. it’s about autonomy, and it’s about loving yourself when entire industries exist to profit off of making you feel inadequate.
In 2013, the percentage of high school graduates hit an all time high with 81 per cent. All over the world, there are more people than ever searching and applying for tertiary education.
Teen pregnancy hit an all time low in 2013, heavy underage drinking is only at 17 % and the number of children and young people in court is the lowest is has been in 20 years.
Over the last few years, there has been a revival of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement and the lgbt movement. Young people all over the world are more likely to be accepting towards minorities, individuals and foreigners than any generation before us.
And yet, older generations talk about us in demeaning tones. We have been coined as the ‘me, me, me’ generation, as the ‘I want it now’ generation, as a generation of people who only care about themselves, a generation of narcissists. Apparently, research shows that about 30 per cent of today’s youth has narcissistic tendencies.
Now, one may say that every generation in history has seen the younger generation as reckless, disregardful of the future and lazy. But this is different. This is different because unlike other generations before us, we are not at one, but at many turning points in history. we are the first generation to grow up with the internet. Never has the world been such a globalised community, never have the borders of countries meant so little. Never has technology moved so fast, never has information been as easily accessible as it is today. We are the first generation that, if we do not agree with what we learn in schools, we can educate ourselves, we are the first generation that can connect with people from america, from germany, from china, from south africa, from brazil, and build friendships all over the world.
But not all is positive. We are also a generation that may be facing more threats to humankind than have ever existed in one time period before. Global climate change, oil and other natural resources running out, and a new face of terrorism in the form of ISIS and Boko Haram. The global economy is falling apart, and is responsible for the fact that we will be the first generation to be less wealthy than our parents, that most students in Australia will start working already in debt because of student loans.
A world in ruins is what my generation has been saddled with. We’re the ones who are holding on to each other despite our differences and telling each other it’s good to be who we are, whether we’re gay or straight or black or white. We have to save the environment, end wars and find homes for the asylum seekers this system has created, we have to cure poverty and wage inequality and food distribution, and as if all that was not enough it is harder than ever to get a job in this society, harder than ever to pay for education.
And we are the lazy ones.
Why? Because we like taking selfies? Because we like spending time on social media? Because we like spending time with our friends? Are we uncreative and stupid because we are not afraid to say “I’m awesome and I truly believe that”?.
We are proud of ourselves. We tell each other to love ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t feel for other people. And what good has ever come of being modest? Yes, society sees this as the ideal, but are we really happier if we constantly deny every compliment we get?
As cliche as it sounds, I believe you must love yourself before you can love and have a healthy relationship with anyone. As for the claim that we are uncreative; have you ever seen the internet? It is probably the biggest platform for creativity that has ever existed, because, as trivial as they are, memes are probably one of the most creative things humans have ever come up with. Recycling someone else’s idea, putting your own twist on it and making it your own is what human civilisation is all about.
Even if you only look at one platform, you see it bustling with creativity. Youtube culture has enabled every one of us to have an audience to spread our message all over the world if we want to, enabled some of the best comedians to have their own space and make their own material, independent from any boundaries a company or studio might restrict them to. 4chan, while maybe not being the best example in decent human beings, has brought up on of the biggest activist groups of recent years, anonymous. On fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org, users write entire books, that are not restricted by age, usual genres, or any of the conventional book themes. All over the internet, there are small groups and communities bonding over their favourite book, movie, TV Show, video game, over their desire to learn, over everything. And all of them have such a huge creative potential, all of them create so much information every day that it is almost unfathomable to the human mind.
Of course not every person our age is a shining beacon of hope, integrity and creativity, not all of us can change the world. But we all believe that we can. And we have to. Because if we don’t, our world will never be saved from past mistakes.
And that is what I want you all to learn today:
We are not vain because we love ourselves, and we are not bad people because we like using the internet. We are contributing to the biggest pool of information ever created by humankind.
There is a lot resting on our generation, and the problems of the future often seem unsolvable. But I believe that we all have the potential to save the world. Love the person you are and the person you’re becoming, because we will be a generation that people will look back to and say “They did something truly remarkable.”