Over the weekend I saw an article detailing the results of a Harris Poll that was commissioned by LEGO that focused on what children aspired to be in various countries. What I saw was a bit unnerving.
According to the poll, 56 percent of Chinese children said they wanted to be astronauts when they grow up. Meanwhile, only 11 percent of U.S. children wanted anything to do with that.
No, for children in the United States, the number one career choice was to grow up and be a YouTuber or vlogger of some sort at 29 percent.
This worried me, because it showed me how far the United States has fallen in terms of how high it holds up its celebrities. Don’t get me wrong, I watch YouTube for nearly everything, including my news. The vlogger has become just as much a celebrity as the people on the silver screen, only we don’t call them celebrities per se, we call them “influencers.”
And therein lies the draw for American kids. The influencer is just as recognized as the celebrity with the added benefit of never having to leave your home to be one. They get all the recognition and and fame for their work, including the perks of money and free stuff from sponsors. As such, American kids don’t want to grow up to be Neil Armstrong, they’d rather grow up to be PewDiePie.
Instead of exploring the stars, they’d rather sit in front of a camera and talk about their thoughts and opinions. I realize that’s rich coming from a guy whose job is to talk about his thoughts and opinions, but at least I have the excuse that I fell into it by mistake. The very first thing I wanted to be as a kid was an astronaut.
We’ve become so obsessed with ourselves and how people look at us. Our social media fixation has showed us a world where everyone is looking at us and applauding for being entertaining. Meanwhile, Chinese children are actually looking toward the future and figuring out how to get off this Kardashian infested rock where a makeup tutorial is more viewed than news about the latest scientific breakthrough.
I have to say, however, that I’m not blaming the children. Generation Z was born into this. This is the world that they know and understand. The successful people, at least to them, are the ones who are sitting in their living rooms with a camera and making millions of dollars talking to people. It’s something that they can do too, right now. They don’t need training or need to slog through horrible times in order to finally achieve their goal. They can just pull out the high-tech computer in their pocket, switch on an app and begin broadcasting.
American culture is so infectious and addictive that Gen Z never had a chance. The fastest and most effective way to change the world now is to become a recognized face within it.
Chinese culture has not fallen to that, however. Not, at least, to the extent the west has.
And while we’re looking at ourselves in our computer screens while we talk, Chinese children are looking at the stars. While we obsess over celebrity, Chinese children obsess over the future. Rest assured, the day is approaching swiftly when we’ll look up and see China above us both figuratively and very, very literally.