Thursday, June 19, 2008

Teenagers, the mobile phone and the lure of the better offer

One of the characteristics of people under thirty is that, having grown up with the mobile phone, they have never felt the need to plan. Teenagers no longer rendezvous. They swarm. They set off to meet each other and change their meeting point according to some strange new form of mathematics that can calculate where the majority of them will be at any given moment. They set off to Camden and call you an hour later from Shoreditch.

There's nothing particularly wrong with this except where it runs up against the traditional form of life planning used by the rest of us. This involves such things as calendars, invitations, tickets, bookings and commitments. For years we used to spend New Year's Eve with the same family. This wasn't a three-line whip. This was what all generations wanted to do.

But when Millennium New Year's Eve was beginning to loom the young people, by then older teenagers, wouldn't commit. They were bound to be doing something special. So-and-so was having a huge party. Wotsit was hiring the Orient Express. They couldn't possibly miss that. As the months went by the plans became more ambitious and less concrete. In fact they weren't plans. They were daydreams. Nobody was prepared to say what they were doing in case that meant they missed out on something better.

The upshot of all this was that at five o'clock on December 31st they were all on the phone to each other having the same conversation. "I dunno. What're you doing?"


  1. The peculiar thing about the Millennium in the UK is that it was such a big deal. Here in Spain there was a bit of joking about the Y2K effect and the imminent end of the world, but otherwise people went about their normal business that night. Quite why Britain decided a quirk of the decimal numbering system was worth commemorating with vast domes and wheels and bridges is beyond me.

  2. Yes, my younger brother spends most of his time avoiding calls in case he gets a better offer that evening or not really going anywhere. Too much choice. Although us post 30 somethings are guilty of that too in that an upcoming family holiday never really came together for no other reason other than vagueness.

  3. Imagine whole days going by without being contactable, whole summer holidays going by without talking to your college friends the past was different country they.....

  4. Anonymous12:07 am

    You know teenagers who set off for Camden and call you an hour later from Shoreditch? That's what I call a rather well-organised, unusually responsible swarm of teens. The ones I know set off for Camden and never call at all, wherever they end up