Saturday 21 September 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'This is what happens when we think we're all stars in our very own biopic'

Failing to ‘hit the algorithm right’: Katie Bower and her six-year-old son
Failing to ‘hit the algorithm right’: Katie Bower and her six-year-old son
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Every generation rebels against the people who went before them and gives out about the people who come after them.

It's the natural order of things, and just as hippies freaked out their parents, they were, in turn, horrified by punks, while everyone threw their hands up in despair at the apparent nihilistic and slacker-like Generation X.

Traditionally, parents worried about their kids listening to 'dangerous' music, or taking drugs or generally sinking to new depths of depravity.

There days? Well, to be honest, if I was a parent I wouldn't be worried about the younglings sinking to new depths of depravity so much as plumbing new depths of stupidity.

It doesn't take a Victor Meldrew to look at the world and think everything has gone completely bonkers - we live in a trite and trivial culture where emotions reign supreme and cold logic is viewed with suspicion and mistrust.

But even those of us who spend an inordinate amount of our time gazing in baffled wonderment at just how monumentally thick some people can be, should probably applaud the almost heroic levels of dumb we witnessed this week.

A US 'mommy blogger' (yup, that's a thing these days) provoked widespread scorn when she admitted that one of her five kids just doesn't get the same number of Instagram 'likes' as the rest.

Katie Bower became this week's Most Hated Woman Ever after she complained that pictures of her six-year-old son "never got as many likes as my other children".

She then produced what is perhaps the least maternal sentence ever written in the English language: "From a statistical point of view, he wasn't as popular with everyone out there. Maybe part of that was the pictures just never hit the algorithm right. I say all that because I want to believe that it wasn't him, that it was on me. My insufficiency caused this statistical deficit."

Many families have pet names for each other, but I imagine this is probably the first time any of us have seen a mother refer to her kid as a "statistical deficit".

I mean, my parents used to call me "the mistake'" but at least I think they were joking. But even being called "the mistake" is nicer than being known as the "statistical deficit".

Further raising the likelihood that this kid's future will involve lots of therapy, she then carried on with: "I want him to see the numbers and I have to learn that his value is not in online approval."

It's easy to laugh at such nonsense, and it's probably also quite telling that Bowers previously boasted that she didn't know what happened on 9/11 because she was in college and too busy dating boys.

But she is not just some mad American with a crippling desire for attention and the validation of strangers.

In fact, she is one of millions across the West who now define their sense of self-worth purely through the medium of social media hits.

It's driving people mad - literally.

The last WHO survey on mental health in Europe and America showed a massive increase in anxiety and stress levels across all ages, but mostly amongst the young.

This was put down to the vice-like grip social media has around the neck of society and it has helped to create an entire new subspecies of people who, if they became any more dense, would form their own black hole.

It's not accurate to use this as just another stick to beat the millennials with, either. This rather pathetic neediness spans all the ages and all genders and it is ruining society.

If it was simply a case of the next generation behaving in a way that baffles the rest of us old farts, that would be fair enough. But it runs deeper and much more destructively than that. This is what happens when you tell everyone that they can be whatever they want to be - they can't. Sorry.

If we could all be whatever we wanted to be, you'd be staring at a blank page because, like most boys, I dreamt of being a professional footballer. By the age of 14, that dream had passed. That's life - if we were all able to live out our dreams then nobody would be around to pick up the bins.

Yet by selling people this absurd fantasy that they can present themselves to the world on Instagram or other social-media sites and somehow become celebrities in their own right, we have contributed to a marked decline in basic common sense and a bit of cop-on.

The harsh reality is that you're not special, you're not unique and the universe would pay no attention if you disappeared tomorrow.

That doesn't mean you can't strive to make your mark on the world and make the most of whatever talents you happen to have.

But when we have a situation where everyone walks around thinking they're the star of their own biopic, and everyone else is merely an incidental character, you get the kind of people who fret that their six-year-old kid isn't as popular with strangers as the rest of their brood.

There are plenty of these 'mommy bloggers' in Ireland - I wait with great anticipation for the first case to be brought against bubble-headed, pathologically narcissistic parents for ruthlessly invading and exploiting their child's privacy.

You could sell tickets for a case like that, but the parents would probably find that quite appealing.

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