Marketers, parents and bemused bystanders are perpetually questing to answer a very simple question: What’s cool these days … according to teens?
Teenagers are, after all, the selfie-snapping, Snapchat-sending oracles of our time: They know what apps and social networks are “the next big thing,” they catapult undeserving musicians to global prominence on the force of their collective whim, they predict — for good or evil! — what our culture will look like 10 years from now. And yet, the more new trends and technologies teenagers adopt, the more opaque they become to the olds around them. Just look at the ever-growing pile of trend stories devoted to interpreting teens and their behavior: They’re brain-damaged! They drink hand sanitizer! They drink, period!
Fortunately, Reddit has given us a rare opportunity to glimpse more-or-less directly into the mysterious teenage mind. And surprise! It’s not so different from the teen mind of yesteryear.
The following are some of the top-rated responses to the question, “teens of Reddit, what’s cool nowadays?” In the seven hours since it was posted, more than 14,000 people have replied.
- Snapchat. the “silly toy for teens to send naked pictures to each other” … that’s worth an estimated $4 billion.
- Hating things that are cool.
- “Getting … drunk to the point of getting sick.”
- Disney’s “Frozen.” (See also: “Let It Go” remixes, elaborate fan theories.)
- Having pronounced eyebrows and discussing them at length.
- “Roaming your local area/city centre with your friends without a real agenda.”
- Hating on Facebook.
- E-cigarettes or “vaping,” the controversial alternative to straight-up cigarettes.
- Electronic dance music, or EDM — the type of stuff that plays in clubs.
- Ask.fm, one of many anonymous messaging sites.
- “Being smart.”
- Vine and Instagram, both popular photo- and video-sharing apps.
- Ray-bans, Doc Martens and Converse sneakers
- Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch
- “Ironic grunge”
- “Living the life of a rapper, I guess.”
- Having a car.
- No make-up selfies, a recent meme to raise awareness for cancer research.
- “Following the rules and listening to your parents is extremely cool. Being safe is also looked upon as hip.”
… just kidding! That last one’s from a dad.
All of which just goes to show, the teens of 2014 aren’t all that different, or more difficult, than the teenagers of the analog age. They just have more tools on which to share their mischief. To paraphrase the researcher Danah Boyd, who studies technology and teens: Chill out! The kids are all right.