I’m sat in the Isle seat. The plane is pointed to Heathrow, London, and I’m next to a pair of teenage boys. I assume they’re teenagers anyway. Their faces show no traces of hair and their complexion doesn’t yet tell of sleepless nights and 8am starts with a hangover. Instead they have that cocky “I’ve seen it all” look in their eye. Masters of the universe at sixteen. They are loud and they are animated. Fortunately for me they are speaking in Swedish (since Sweden is where our plane currently sits) so I’m not able to understand whatever inconsequential waff it is they’re loudly talking about.
Teenagers are the worst aren’t they? I really feel like they are. As if to prove my point the boy to my immediate left pulls out a bashed up iPhone 4 and activates the camera. It defaulted to the front facing lens. Sure enough he raises the phone to forehead height, just high enough so that he’s looking up to the lens and so that the aisle and the tops of the heads of the passengers behind him are visible in the frame. He pulls a face somewhere between grin and gurn and instantly uploads the photo to Instagram with some text alongside it. The entire time I am intently watching him. I mean my head is literally aimed thirty degrees to my left because I want him to know I’m watching him. I want him to feel shame.
Clearly my gaze means nothing because as soon as the portrait is safely displayed on his Instagram feed he opens the camera again, readjusts the height of the device and snaps another selfie complete with stupid face. This one gets sent to somebody called Tilda along with a wink emoticon. Perhaps a girlfriend? Lucky Tilda.
Why did he not feel shame at taking selfies in public? I literally don’t understand what just happened. Do male teenagers take public selfies and that’s just considered okay with their peers? He recommences laughing and joking with his friend, thoughtlessly sending irritating jolts through our shared seats as he bounces around and I fold my arms, close my eyes and try to focus on the calming shoegaze music I have to listen to during take offs and landings to keep my nerves in check (I am an anxious flyer and the older I’m getting the more uncomfortable I become with the whole deal).
As I sat there focusing on the music (a playlist of tracks by Tycho), trying to ignore how badly my palms were sweating and meditating my way through my co-passengers noisy exchanges my mind drifted to thoughts of the future: If I find teenagers this annoying now, what with their selfies, their infinitely specific and unending emoticons (see below) and their relentless abbreviating of perfectly good words, then what sort of bullshit will my theoretical teenage children be into when they’re sixteen? Will I be completely out of touch with everything they do? With everything that motivates and interests them? What if there are even more irritating things for teenagers to latch on to in 2040? Like selfie drones that follow you around all day constantly uploading high angle pictures of your awful face to some news feed somewhere? Or perhaps electronic clothes that show your latest Spleegr updates on the back of your space hoodie?
I guess what this comes down to is me wanting reassurance. I want people from my parents generation to tell me that they hated me and my friends when we were sixteen. That we were irritating pricks with our MySpaces and our Nokia feature phones and our rucksacks covered in tipex. Then I want THEIR parents to tell me THEIR offspring were pricks too. I want to be sure that teenagers aren’t getting worse, that when I have children they will eventually become likeable adults. Adults that sit quietly in their airline chair and that have the good decency to be ashamed about taking a series of selfies in a public space. Please don’t let technology ruin my future kids. I’d quite like to not eventually hate them.
And because I don’t already sound old enough… Another thing! Emoticons.
Last time I checked we made do with happy smilie and sad smiley. Why do I need an emoticon of a wild boar head or a toilet?! I didn’t realise this had happened until recently and I accidentally tapped the emoticon button on my iPhone keypad. That’s right. Emoticons get an entire and permanent key on my keyboard now. Some of the useless clip-art found within:
A wad of cash with wings
A yellow cat crying tears of laughter
A perfectly formed turd with a face
Five separate types of shoe
Two camels. One with one hump. One with two humps.
When is ANYBODY going to need to make that distinction? “Hey Jane, sorry I can’t call you back right now because I’m riding my double humped camel to Sainsos 🐫 YOLO”.