Growing up, I told people that I wanted to become a genetic engineer. I had no idea what it meant, but I’d discovered that it seemed wildly impressive coming from an 11-year-old and was a great way to shock people who patronisingly asked that little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up.
Nowadays, you’d be laughed out of the careers office for an ambition so dull. No kid wants to be any less than Keith Richards now. And if they did, no parent would let them.
In the 1980s, the odd alternative type styled themselves as an interior designer or a pet psychic, and in the noughties we laughed at jobzilla roles (public-sector non-jobs such as corporate outreach strategists and diversity awareness officers) — now no one I know aspires to an actual job. My little brother yawns that after university he wants “to be famous”. For what? “Being on Big Brother,” he shrugs.
Every posh girl I meet is in fashion, at a film company, a social-media something, or (ahem) a journalist. Every hot boy’s an actor, every trustafarian is an artist, every hipster is running a record label/club night/blog while hoping their Twitter feed will become a bestselling book. We all pray that we can turn our lives into Vines — tweetable video clips — and our Vines into cash (like Tim Chantarangsu, whose YouTube channel has earned so much, it’s paid off his parents’ mortgage). My friends’ occupations include data hacker, underwear model, cultural curator, club promoter, freelance philosopher (even though half of them are simply unemployed).
On Twitter, the contemporary job title has been elevated to a postmodern art form. Anything fewer than seven syllables and you’re not trying hard enough: bespoke cupcake connoisseur; extreme burlesque advocate; organic coffee evangelist. No description is too self-aggrandising. Even Hillary Clinton joined Twitter with a bio calling herself an “author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass-ceiling cracker, TBD…” As if US senator and former secretary of state weren’t enough.
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