A Generation of Rudeness?

You’re probably thinking that I’m getting crotchety in my old age, but apparently, it’s not me, or rather it is me…Generation ME.

According to this article, kids today “seem rude, disrespectful and generally clueless about established social mores”. It goes on further to blame this on technology: iPods, Cell Phones, Instant Messaging and Bulletin Boards are all things that seem to isolate kids, and make them oblivious to the social graces around them. The article goes on to point out other examples of how kids are just missing the point and pissing off their elders.

Just recently, I was on the NSMB bulletin boards: A forum devoted to Freeride Mountain Biking. Average age of this forum was around 18 – 22, but I’ve seen ages as young as 16, and quite a few more under 20’s. This is probably due to the fact that there are many older members that seem to skew the average.

Generally I’ve found the board to be a wealth of information on the sport that I enjoy. However, one incident totally caught me off guard. I replied to a post and was totally dumbfounded by the rudeness of the poster asking for help. Granted, my response wasn’t that helpful, but the response to it was just poor. As social graces go, the one asking for help doesn’t blow off the people trying to give it. It’s like having a neighbour come over to ask you to borrow the lawn mower that you happen to be using, and they tell you to screw yourself when you tell them you’ll be done with it in a little bit, and they can grab it later.

The posting goes on with me trying to treat them like adults, and trying to make a point with reason, but it seems that because this generation derives their identities from the brand names they associate themselves with, and my stab at the “iPod Altar” clearly put me on the hit list for an “Apple Holy War”. The conversation spirals downwards until finally one of the other “iPod Youngsters” jumps in with a personal attack from left field. Totally uncalled for, especially since I have never had any disagreements in the past with this user. Instead of posting further, calling him out, I decided to take this to private messaging. There has been no response to my sincere request for an explanation.

Reading an article from National Review Online kind of put things into perspective. It seems young atheletes these days, like the ones I have encountered, have become “spoiled, narcissistic, shallow” as the article subtitle puts it. This is really sad.

The ramifications for such behaviour of our young atheletes include reduced funding, fewer sponsorships, and less interest in grassroots efforts for youth. No corporation wants their spokespeople of the future to be foul mouthed brats that cry when they don’t get their way, or can’t negotiate their way out of a paper bag without throwing an “Eat Shit” in there. Since mountain biking relies on community support and private funding and volunteers for the maintenance of trails, you could see a reduction of said funds and support with just a bad attitude or two.

After my experience, I clearly couldn’t see myself pointing a client to support the sport, especially if it could mean giving my client’s company a bad reputation. As much as I love the sport, I don’t like what the attitudes of some of our young riders have become, and it makes me ask what would make them see the light of day? Would full scale closures of our favourite jump parks, skate bowls, or trails be the only way to force an attitude adjustment? I sure hope it doesn’t come to that because that would mean everyone would suffer.

Speaking of sponsorship, Norco’s Sponsorship Guide has a paragraph that the kids looking to get sponsored should really take to heart:

Most important every step of the way though, is professionalism. Sponsors don’t only look at your results. They look at you as another ambassador for their products. If you act like a jerk in public, mouthing off or kicking puppies, you will not get sponsored. This especially applies to your conduct if you’ve crashed out of a race, and even when you’re not suited up. People need to respect you, and being a jerk in a chat room or out on the trails somewhere will likely not bode well. Sponsors would rather support the nice guy who finished third than the idiot who won.

If you can’t be a role model un-sponsored, how can you become one when you are sponsored?

Having said all this, hope is not all lost as there are some exceptional young people in every generation. My interaction with kids at the jump parks and trails have been mainly positive, and I hope they continue to shine in their examples to other youth. However, I am worried that in the future, if things keep continuing the way they do, we will be dealing with an entire “Generation of Rudeness”.