My absolute favourite part of my job is being the office young person.
Occasionally people will give you some of their lunch because you look underfed. (I am. My cooking skills extend to Buzz-feed microwave cup meals.) Sometimes people will ask you what you do on weekends so you can provide vicarious glamour for them. (My scandalous weekends normally consist of sleeping and watching owl videos with Mum.)
But almost every day someone will walk past and ask you a question about young people these days.
It's my favourite part of the day. I always enjoy young-people-these-days theories. Why do you guys roll your jeans? Why do you guys get brazilians? Do you eat grass?
The other day, when a colleague and I had gathered at the bedside of our dying coffee machine, he sprung another one on me. "Verity, you're a feminist," Oh God, please not a question about bodily hair, it's 8.30am. "Why do young women these days put up with so much shit?"
I must have looked puzzled because he went on a rant. Young women, he said, had regressed in their feminist standards. We were happy to sell ourselves short for meaningless sex and boast about being a girl who who was only good for two things - the usual thing ... and making sandwiches.
This is the point in the rant when I normally bite the person or feign a bodily emergency. But I didn't have a chance because he showed me an article on his phone: "Funny Tinder By-Lines". The compilation article included gems such as, "gag reflex as absent as my father figure", and "the C and the L are silent (Her name was Chloe)". And there were a hundred like this, just in the one article.
I understand where he was coming from. But we shouldn't generalise a generation based on their Tinder status.
I don't deny that young women say things like this. We've heard the stories from that slightly creepy 40-something acquaintance who trawls Tinder in a mildly disturbing way.
And we've all seen similar on Facebook, or heard of the friend's daughter who posts statuses about giving head.
But even if we say provocative things online, it doesn't necessarily mean we act that way in real life. There's a strong possibility these statuses are aiming for a shocked giggle. It is more a reflection of how we think it's appropriate to behave online than proof we're moral degenerates. So the question is, of course, why do young women want to tweet like the love child of Linda Lovelace and a Stepford wife?
Well, the internet does encourage eye-watering honesty. So if you've been waiting to share your love of extreme sex and continual baguette assemblage then you're going to now.
But it's also likely that we're responding to the internet's rules of "how to be likeable". Humans want to be liked. We're totally irrational about it. We want people to like us, even if we don't like them. We say things we don't mean to new people in an effort to look cool. And we get super-excited when a normally horrible person is nice to us -because we might be the one person they actually like. We just want to loved.
We want this on the internet too. But the internet has different rules for likeability than in real life, and when I say "different" I mean regressive.
It feels like, online, you have to be either the cool girl who is blokey but sexy or just
the housewife girl. It's being laid back and horny or subservient and horny. Funny? Sure. But as long as it shows your Madonna/whore nature.
It's a rigid formula. Which makes it clear - if you want to be liked, this is who you have to be. And of course, we could say that you should care less about what other people think. But that's kinda like telling someone they should give up sugar - you're right, but you're dreaming, mate.
Debate on this article is now closed.