Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

Last week I was asked to give a talk about generation snowflake. This was at a breakfast organised by a recruitment company called GTI Solutions and the idea was that I would provide an urban anthropologist's take on this new tribe for the benefit of their corporate clients, most of whom are thinking about how to recruit them and, once they've got them, how to keep them happy. This has given me an idea about a new consultancy service I could provide.

The main challenge thrown up by employing these new graduates, it seems to me, is that they won't be particularly good at communicating with members of other generations in the workplace. One of the hallmarks of the 'me, me, me generation' is that they're marooned in a kind of no man's land between adolescence and adulthood. I say 'no man's land', but perhaps 'safe space' is a better description because they clearly like being there. Why do they refuse to take the final step into adulthood? Partly because their immersion in social media since the year dot has accustomed them to just communicating with their peers. It's difficult to grow up if you have no idea how to talk to grown-ups.

That, at any rate, is the theory of Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardises Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) .

'Never before in history have people been able to grow up and reach age 23 so dominated by peers,' he told Time magazine. 'To develop intellectually you've got to relate to older people, older things: 17-year-olds never grow up if they're just hanging around other 17-year-olds.'

Quite plausible, and it means that when these 'kidults' arrive in the workplace they will have difficulty making themselves understood. Indeed, they probably won't be able to fully grasp what it is their seniors are saying to them either. It'll be like the United Nations, except without the simultaneous translation. And the snowflakes will be speaking Esperanto.

So how can I help? Well, that isn't a million miles from my experience working for Vanity Fair in the Condé Nast building on Madison Avenue in the mid-1990s. As a youngish Fleet Street hack surrounded by middle-aged Americans, I often found myself talking at cross purposes to my workmates. …

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