WHEN I was young, I was repeatedly asked what I would like to be when I grow up. I almost always told everyone that I wanted to be a scientist because some days I also wanted to be a pilot or an astronaut. My sister wanted to be a doctor, but she discovered that the medical field was not for her, so she decided to become a lawyer. It was difficult for her to finish law school, but it all paid off when she passed the recent bar exams. And no one could have been prouder than our whole family.
Today ask a child what they would like to be when they grow up and you will always hear familiar answers, but many will also say they would like to be influencers or vloggers on YouTube or another media platform. social. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with these dreams, but it kind of reflects the kind of society we’ve become. And I’m embarrassed.
Influence currency is no longer based on reputation and credibility built over time, but on what’s popular right now. And ad agencies encourage this type of behavior by emphasizing engagement rates and reach, more than integrity built over time. Is this wrong? Not entirely. But it begs to be reconsidered in the face of the growing number of kids dreaming of becoming the next influencer or famous vlogger. What happens when every kid’s anthem is “When I Grow Up?” of the Pussycat Dolls? What then becomes of our society? I know that’s an exaggeration, but are we all letting our kids get famous?
Some people would say it’s a generational problem and baby boomers have pushed gen X and millennials to a point where they had to fix what they blamed baby boomers for ruin. And in doing so, they have become independent and self-sufficient. So much so that they think they can do everything by themselves, that they forget that they are part of a community beyond their age group. I’m all for labels and defining generations, but only to the extent that it helps us understand how to work together. It should not be used to excuse bad behavior or unprofessional conduct. Today people are more interested in what they can get out of it than how they can help their group or community. We seem to have forgotten that we are all in this together and that our actions impact our communities.
This “me” mentality has permeated every facet of everyday life and even seeped into the mindset of other generations. Think of the Karens in the United States who challenge socially accepted behavior and insist on what they want because they believe it is their right to do as they please. Or the mainstream politicians in the last election who used every conceivable form of misinformation just to retain or regain power. When people fall victim to these lies, the whole country suffers. Also notice that the Karens and traditional politicians have one thing in common: they do whatever they can to get what they want at any cost because they think they have a right to it. Is this the kind of society we want?
There is a popular story about Margaret Mead, an anthropologist who gave an interesting answer to a question about what she believed to be the first sign of civilization. She replied that it was a thigh bone that was broken and then healed.
In ancient times, if a person broke their leg, they easily became food for other animals because they could not easily escape predators. But one healed person indicated that someone took the time to care for that person. She went on to say that “helping someone else through hardship is the starting point of civilization.” What makes us civilized is our ability and desire to help others.
In a way, this resembles Jean Jacques Rousseau’s concept of a social contract where obedience is subsumed to the general will or the common good. In its simplest form, the social contract means being part of a community of shared values and interests. The common interest of the group is followed, which also means that if a leader usurps his power, people have an obligation to rebel and defend the common interest. In this way, both the ruler and the ruled have a duty to protect the social contract that supports the common good.
What bothers me is how individualism has corrupted the way some people view their communities. Instead of means to build it, they see their communities as a means to an end: to be more popular, richer or more influential. And it hurts me when I hear a kid say they want to be an influencer or a vlogger because they think these people earn so much in such a short time. They think it’s a shortcut to their dream of becoming famous and rich. But in reality, influencers come and go as soon as the next “best” influencer arrives. So what would happen to those that have reached their expiration date in the blogging/vlogging landscape? What do we teach our children that they aspire to be famous and influential more than to be productive members of society?
The values we hold on to and the values we teach our children reflect the kind of people they want to be when they grow up. If we don’t lay a good foundation for the next generation, everything will fall apart. But if we build a community that depends on each other and improve everyone’s ability to help others, we form a foundation that can support the next generation of lawyers, teachers, nurses and other professionals who serve the common good. Your current job may not reflect your childhood dream, but I hope it reflects the same childlike hope to make a difference to help others.
Picture credits: Aqviews on Unsplash