A rather depressing trend that’s developing, if the stats we see in newspapers or on T.V are to be believed, is that more and more children are becoming prey to our apparent ‘celebrity culture’. This week, the weekly newspaper ‘The Week’ published the latest of similar stats that have been appearing everywhere; the highest aspiration for girls aged 7-12 is “fame” and the highest aspiration for boys of the same age is to “make lots of money”.
The blame, predictably, has been placed onto our culture and society. Children raised by a generation of parents who can’t stop watching X Factor or Big Brother or whatever reality T.V rubbish the channels happen to be spewing out that month is not an environment where they are (ironically) much in touch with ‘reality’. They don’t see or associate their daily lives with those who are making the real differences, they just see smiling faces on the ‘idiot box’ their parents can’t turn away from and aspire to be the ones everyone will always watch. This brings me neatly onto my take on the trend. It is my belief that the majority of people these days only see themselves, or want to see themselves, how other people see them. They apply labels to themselves from the eyes of others, for example a friend saying you’re pretty holds more value than looking in the mirror and declaring yourself pretty. Their greatest desire therefore is to have the eyes of the T.V viewing world on them, so they can have what they believe to be the greatest amount of appraisal. This can of course work the other way round. Too often I am disgusted by some of the articles I see on the front of those awful ‘celebrity’ magazines where they are pointed at and openly criticised for weight gain or spots or dealing badly with a break-up. The fickle public can turn away from you even quicker than towards.
We are a generation too insecure for our own perception of ourselves to be positive enough to sustain us mentally and emotionally. This could be why 500 million of us, globally, now have a Facebook account. We want other people to look at us, to look at our pictures, look what we say and to LIKE us, to collect appraisal in the form of wall posts and picture comments. We judge ourselves on our interactions, the people we see and associate with and not always on how we actually feel, what makes us happy. In some cases we can create an exterior persona that we exhibit to feel liked and accepted that goes against who we really are and what we really want.
According to the practise of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), used by psychiatrists and counsellors, thought labelling is a “thought error”. It’s a damaging practise that can make you feel low, anxious and can lead to low self esteem and depression. It’s a hard pattern to break. Can we really change the way we feel about ourselves? And in doing so, can our society really reverse itself? Perhaps the young generation will change if we can show them the real value of life, but the problem is where religion used to fill that authority there is no sustained replacement. They’ll have to decide for themselves what they really want from life but as we well know, so few people ever really make that decision that it seems an acutely optimistic ideal.