I went to the Wollongong Botanical Gardens the other day to wander and take some macro shots. It had been a long time between visits. The visit made me sad because there was something different. It wasn’t the gardens. They were still beautiful and the sky was blue and the afternoon sun warm. It wasn’t just because I was nostalgic for family picnics or the times my son and I explored its forests and creeks while my daughter attended drama lessons. No. It was more the young people in the garden.
We came across at least five different sets of teens and young adults who were searching for locations and posing dramatically for photos taken by friends. It wasn’t just girls. There were girl/boy, boy/boy and girl/girl combinations. It was apparent that the botanical gardens, for them was just a backdrop for their social media posts. Snippets of overheard conversation were about poses, hair and locations that would best show off their features. Overheard at the arbour: “How am I supposed to randomly put my feet here.” (truly)
I am not saying these are just other people’s narcissistic kids. Only last week my son had gone to the botanical gardens with a friend to ‘update his profile picture’ At the time I was just happy that he was getting out of his room but today the full weight of how quickly times have changed hit me. There’s so much emphasis on looking hot and having the façade of an aesthetic life. To the point that a teenage view of the world seems to about how good they’ll look in it. I don’t envy today’s kids. Who would want that pressure?
For a teen of today there is no break from peer pressures and for families there is precious little ‘family time’. At home, on holidays, in the car, kids are still with their peer groups via social media. Restrictions on devices just become another reason for family conflict – as if teens naturally don’t have enough to argue with their parents about.
I thought there could be nothing wider than the generation gap between me and my parents. But things are moving fast now. Much faster than they did in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. The mere fact that I was relieved that my son was getting out in the fresh air and getting a little exercise – my parents wouldn’t have had the least concern about that. We didn’t need to be told to get outside. We didn’t have the allure of a secret online world in our bedrooms or access to cameras and social media 24/7. A teen in the 90’s would have more in common with my 70’s teen generation than they would with the current generation. Ubiquitous internet connectivity has changed everything. I heard somebody ask the other day if their YA novel set in the 90’s is historical fiction – of course it is. Our lives today would be like science fiction to a 90’s teen.
When I got home I asked my son, “When you went to the gardens the other day did you at least just wander around and appreciate them for a bit.”
“Of course, I did,” he said.
I don’t know whether it was true but I want to believe it.
Here are the pictures I took while I wandered and appreciated the bugs, birds and blooms in the afternoon light.