In his book Mediated, Thomas de Zengotita discussed the postmodern world of media saturation that we live in, pointing out that we are “immersed in options, surrounded by representations–and driven by it all to unprecedented levels of self-consciousness.” Transitioning from a chapter on childhood to one about adolescence, the author observes that childhood emerged as a category in the 16th or 17th century because kids in the higher classes were able to take a few years to “learn to be adults” before joining the workforce. But in the middle of last century, this other category emerged: adolescence. The teenager. De Zengotita theorizes that the the more elaborate popular culture becomes, the more images and ideas we have to wade through, the longer it takes to complete the process of becoming an adult. He finishes the chapter with this whammy:
If you’re in your mid-twenties, even pushing thirty and you’re not married, or coupled up in a serious way, and you’re still hanging with your crew, and you still spend serious time playing video games—then I don’t have to tell you how long adolescence can last. People used to get married in their teens and became grandparents at forty. So what’s taking us so long to grow up? Well, there is so much more to absorb…but there are also so many different ways to be, so many different lifestyles, so many different versions of the world. Haunted by the possibility of buyer’s remorse, we dawdle on the brink, trying this, trying that. Options.
Thomas de Zengotita,
Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It
Yikes, I feel like de Zengotita just read my mail. Except for the video games part. But dude, I feel like I only recently convinced myself (with a little help from my friends, of course) that mid-twenties is not that old, and I’m actually not quite a candidate for spinster-hood yet. Then you’ve got de Zengotita calling me out! Maybe this is why I feel slightly perturbed when my group of late 20s, early 30s friends can go out for a late drink on a weeknight because none of them have jobs that require an early start the next morning…