By: Kaitlyn Levine
Billie Eilish, 19, has won five Grammys. Gitanjali Rao, 15, was named TIME 2020 Magazine’s Child of the Year. Oliver Daemen, 18, is currently the youngest person to ever travel to space.
Above average intelligence and ambitions have become common among youth. With technological advances being made daily, some find themselves feeling behind in life, despite barely starting. Why does being average in the 'Gilded Age' seem to be such a burden?
Driven by a greed to succeed
Members of Gen-Z, the current generation of teens and young adults, make headlines daily. From a new TikTok dance wooing the internet to scientific discoveries, Gen-Z does it all. However, the attention has become a burden to some youths. A study found that perfectionism is increasing over time as social and economic standards grow tougher.
Hustle Culture: the glorification of working very long hours in hope of reaching one's professional goals, while having a disregard for their health and relationships with loved ones.
The push to succeed in a modern world is much stronger, leaving a growing faction of teens and young adults feeling left behind whilst their peers succeed. The feeling of being average while everyone else appears to be better can cause symptoms close to those of depression and anxiety, sometimes including suicidal tendencies. Comparison creates a constant drive to become better while never appreciating what one has, thus only leading to an eventual burnout.
In 2020, 38.3% of public high school graduates took at least one AP exam. This is a sharp increase from 27.1% in 2010, but also implies a trend: there are growing ambitions amongst teens. AP courses are college level and paced courses, but targeted towards high schoolers. The Advanced Placement program serves as a way to get ahead for teens, but has also developed into a smaller subculture. Tiktok videos poking fun at AP students are amusing, until the contents of them are truly examined. Over-achieving, self neglecting tendencies appear to be at the root of many of the videos, with studying to become the best being a common denominator.
Competitive academics are nothing new, in fact, one of the most watched TV shows in U.S. history, Gilmore Girls, entails an overly ambitious student, who has little to no hobbies outside of studying. The glamorization of competitive academics places pressure on young teens to compete to be the best, but pays no mind to the average individual. Those who do not conform to the system are left behind.
Constant media access
The major shifts in culture from the '90s to the '20s marked a catalyst for innovations, but also set the growing generation as the guinea pigs for their effects. Social media, widely popularized in the 2000s, single-handedly plays the largest role regarding the stability of the teenage mind.
Social media’s 24/7 accessibility has a multitude of wonderful impacts, one being the constant opportunity to reach information and learn about any topic as desired, however, the constant access to news and media allows for comparisons to be made between an individual and an online presence at any given moment. Though many posts are made through rose lenses, the inability to identify any flaws in a person online may cause people to feel insecure and become upset with themselves. In addition to this, many social media networks fail to properly regulate content posted, nor do they require users to clarify when their photos are retouched and edited.
To further the effects of this, many feel overwhelmed by the amount of information online. Buridan's ass is a theory developed by 14th century philosopher Jean Buridan, in which a donkey is placed midway between water and food while he is equally hungry and thirsty. Unable to decide, the donkey ultimately dies of hunger, similar to how individuals leave their curiosity unprovoked at the assumption that they will miss other information. With so much knowledge accessible to individuals, they are unable to act, leaving them with no growth from their original situation, nor decline.
Background and family dynamics
Family dynamics and economic backgrounds also play a large part in the development and success of individuals. The environment in which one grows up determines their outlook on life, exposure to information, and the way they interact with people. This is natural, as people naturally mimic the traits and behaviour displayed by their caretakers. However, the connections that one has through their family are not always natural.
The middle class is dying, while the poor grow poorer and the rich grow richer. According to Brookings Institution, the inner middle class has shrunk from from 50% to 36% over two 15 year periods, and upward mobility out of poverty has decreased from 43% to 35%. It comes as no surprise that those from financially abundant households are succeeding more than average citizens.
While social media and news may paint youth with no major accomplishments to be unsuccessful, reality says otherwise. Being average is not a sign of failure, but a sign of potential, for as long as there is a desire to accomplish one's dreams, there is a chance. Young geniuses are not defined by their intelligence, rather how they use it to build a better tomorrow.
Written by Health and Lifestyle writer Kaitlyn Levine.