I had to laugh to myself when this turned up in my Google Alerts this morning, mostly because it reminded me of one of my best friends, an economist, who regularly likes to use economic models to explain such things.
The whole post is worth reading - aside from being highly entertaining, it lays out some very rational (duh, it’s written by an economist) foundations for all sides of the “hook up” debate. But this was my favourite paragraph, on the decline of dating:
Dating has nothing to do with personal growth. When people are ready for a “real” relationship they settle down. Dating in college, which has a low probability of producing a long term mate, is purely consumptive and may distract people from making productive long run investments in their human (classes) and social (friends and activities) capital. So allowing people to satisfy physical urges by hooking up rather then involving themselves in distracting relationships is a good thing.
It provides a nice counterpoint to the view propagated by people like Laura Sessions Stepp (who, you can see from the aforementioned link, I’m not totally anti), that young adults are forsaking intimate relationships in favour of their careers and friendships, to their peril.
Well, maybe it’s not that we’re all individualistic and self-obsessed (although I’m not 100% convinced that - to some degree - we’re not). Maybe it’s just natural that in an era in which most people don’t start thinking about getting married until their late twenties (at least), romantic relationships before you get to that point are, more often than not, going to suck. And if “investments” into your career or friendships are more likely to “pay off” in the future, might it not be more - ahem - rational to devote your energies there, rather than to short-lived romantic entanglements?
“Let us be on the side of those who want people to be free to live their own lives, to make their own mistakes, and to decide, in an adult way and provided they do not infringe on the rights of others, the code by which they want to live; and on the side too of experiment and brightness, of better buildings and better food, of better music (jazz as well as Bach) and better books, of fuller lives and greater freedom. In the long run those things will be more important than even the most perfect of economic policies.”—Roy Jenkins, The Labour Case (1959), in my current thesis reading, Sexing the Millennium: A Political History of the Sexual Revolution.
[T]here is something seductive about that solitary, nomadic life. For some, living in a society with all the complications, expectations and responsibilities that entails, is just too much to handle. And some would argue, distracts one from the true essence of being alive.
But I wouldn’t agree with those people. I think the essence of life is born out of our relationships with one another. Being a part of something. Feeling like you’re important to others, and that you’re making a useful contribution. Real, lasting happiness, the kind of contentment that has longevity, comes from when you do something for someone else, not for yourself. And whether that’s for people you know in real life - your friends, family and co-workers - or in a more abstract way the people we are connected to through markets, nations, communities, scenes and so on.
Last night I spoke at the very inspiring FISH@6 Youth Innovation night (hosted by Future Journeys' Janine Cahill) on innovation in journalism - or innovation in the kind of social analysis journalism I tend to do, at least - and came up with the following model of where we've come from and what we're working towards.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but these are some of the principles I’ve been trying to apply to my own work.
Old model: Heritage media mastheads have all the cred. Emerging writers establish themselves as voices worth listening to/employing by being picked up by these mastheads on a regular basis (which yes, is basically how I launched my career).
New model: Heritage media still matters - for now, at least, it’s the biggest microphone around - but a new media presence is essential, too. Rather than sending everything off to the biggies (or only writing those pieces that can be shaped to be picked up by a major newspaper, magazine, TV station etc), writers choose the most appropriate media through which to communicate their ideas, with the most successful ones being genuinely multi-platform.
Big magazines and newspapers are both a great venue and provide the financial infrastructure for considered, smart, well-thought out writing (as Emily Gould once quipped, “insightful conclusions cost $2/word … [b]log posts ramble and peter out [sometimes]”); social media is better for the quick responses and niche stuff, as well as - importantly - serving as a direct line to people who care about the things you write about.
As more people - particularly young people - go online for their information, the internet will increasingly serve as both an incubator of new talent, and even a core, financially viable platform for some - think Gala Darling. I realise this is already happening to some extent, particularly in the US, but I haven’t encountered (m)any young Australian journos who see this as a serious option.
Old model: Authority is derived from a writer/editor’s distance from the audience - think Anna Wintour, the byline-less editorials in newspapers, and the general gatekeeper-oriented attitude of most heritage media. (This is not without reason - as most bloggers and anyone who’s worked for a big media company knows, you get a lot of weirdos contacting you.)
New model: The most influential writers are those for whom communication is a genuinely two-way street - who act as an audience to their audience and respond to them in return, like Andrew Sullivan. In new media, disseminating ideas is about building relationships, both with your audience and with other writers - whether heritage or independent. These will often be the same people, as people who care enough about ideas to want to seek them out online are also likely to care about them enough to want to write about them themselves.
Old model: Thought leaders are those with the loudest microphones (ie newspaper columnists, magazine editors and so on). Often, as Jillian York commented on Twitter yesterday, they’re only interested in communicating with others they have identified as fellow elites.
New model: Thought leaders are those who actively participate in the conversation, and whose contributions are judged as valuable by other participants. These may be heritage media employees (and they’ll continue to have an advantage so long as they hold those loud microphones), but they, like everyone else, will be judged more on the substance of what they have to say rather than simply the fact that we can hear them.
of some public personas and brand on its own site. (Sarah Lacy, Julia Allison, and Mark Cuban have all already made Facebook’s list.)
I don’t get it. Isn’t the whole point of Facebook to keep up to date with people you actually know and care about? It’s certainly not about fawning over the blogerati (unless, like Zuckerberg, the blogerati happen to be your ‘friends’).
I mean, a man’s (and for all the implicit sexism, it is the man who pays for the engagement ring, after all) gotta eat and pay his rent, after all, and doesn’t this whole Wedding Industrial Complex just put unnecessary financial blocks on the road to actually building a life together?
In any case, as good artists do, Lee Gainer is questioning this tradition in creative ways. Design Boom reports:
american artist lee gainer is based in washington, DC and creates images that question culturally accepted perceptions. her series ‘two months salary’ is focused on the engagement ring industry. through the series, gainer investigates the evolution of the engagement ring from luxury item to must-have item. she discovered the popular convention of spending two-months salary on a ring was originally invented by debeers in 1947. this purchasing habit continues today and became an interest of gainer’s. gainer calculated the average US salaries for a number of occupations and found a selection of ring’s based on the two-month rule. she assembled these into a series of twenty prints each featuring nine rings and the occupation name.