Standort: / Meldung: "A Sea Change in our perception of young people?"

Alexander Matthews

Reporting for Reality Check

20. 10. 2015 - 14:14

A Sea Change in our perception of young people?

A new photography project, released as a book, seeks to change the way young people in Europe are viewed.

Self-obsessed yet self-loathing, surrounded by social media yet lonely, career-oriented yet often jobless. Such descriptions of young people born between the late 1980s and late 1990s, the so-called Generation Y, are easy to find. It’s fair to say that we don’t get a very good press. If we had a PR firm, it would have more to answer for than a former FIFA executive.

Perhaps we are in need of a defence lawyer. Or, following a Pew Research Center analysis last month, a good psychotherapist. The survey shows that compared with our parents’ generation – the ‘Baby-Boomers’ of the 50s, 60s and early 70s – we see ourselves far less favorably.

Sea Change - Photo Documentary

Forlaget Press

Whereas 77 percent of Boomers consider their generation to be hard-working and 66 percent consider themselves responsible, those numbers sink to 36 percent and 24 percent respectively for Generation Y. We also believe ourselves to be less politically active, less compassionate, and less self-reliant. Yet are we really quite so bad compared to previous generations? Should we really take these numbers to heart, and go to our bedrooms to sulk at how bad we are?

The answer is no. Our problem, as the Guardian’s Eleanor Robertson notes, is that the goalposts have moved. Success for previous generations came ready-made as a check list: get good grades, find a job, find a partner, buy a house and then acquire nice furniture and children to fill it with. Failure to reach these points was a reflection upon your moral character.

So in the eyes of the press, plenty of us fail. But now the economy and society have changed. We were told, as previous generations were, that we would have it better than our parents, but it no longer appears to be the case. Getting a job often involves rattling through a series of internships first. High house prices leave house ownership a distant dream. Marriage is not necessary for having children. For us, the game is rigged.

So what does a more realistic portrait of Generation Y look like? That is a question that the Sea Change Project sets out to answer. The book, compiled by Director of Photography Jocelyn Bain Hogg, presents a vast array of images of Generation Y in 13 different countries in Europe.

Of course, the book does not present an entirely upbeat situation. Perhaps true to form, the text provides an overwhelmingly bleak discussion on the present situation and outlook of European youth; skyrocketing unemployment, the tensions created by immigration, and social isolation are all discussed.

And yet so many of the photos have an upbeat quality. Where there are two people there is a strong bond of friendship. Where there is a group there is a sense of community. Where there is one person, there is a solid identity. Quotes reveal a mixture of hard-working mentalities, patriotism, sense of tradition, a love of fun, and fears and hopes for the future. Shared concerns for any generation.

Not all press about Generation Y is negative. Yet even when we are talked about in positive terms, it’s often because of our tech-savvy nature and different ideas that can turn a business around. Sea Change, however, offers a real chance to see Generation Y across Europe as genuine people with real interests. It shows we can answer the press charges with a strong “Objection, Your Honour!”