Young people have plenty of reasons to be optimistic – so cheer up, guys

A study says we’re all horrible pessimists


Youth is wasted on the young, they say. We don’t realise how good we’ve got it, they say. Other condescending things, they say.

Now, we have internalised the criticisms and veered sharply the other way. According to a YouGov survey published this week, we no longer think we have it good in the slightest: young people are more likely to be pessimistic than older people.

YouGov polled 1500 British adults across a number of age categories, asking: “which of the following comes closer to your view of human nature?” There were two answers: “essentially self-serving and uncooperative” and “essentially sympathetic and cooperative”.

Young people and Ukip voters were more likely to say the former. They have finally broken us, apparently.

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And in response to these findings, the i100 published a list of reasons young people have to be pessimistic about the future. This is the list:

  1. Young people will fund older people’s lives. “Experts cited a combination of high house prices, unemployment, more expensive education and rising government debt that means young people will be net contributors to the public purse, whereas older generations have on net, taken from it,” wrote the i100.
  2. Young people will have to compete for jobs with robots
  3. The government treats young people with disdain
  4. Overpopulation
  5. Climate change
  6. International humanitarian crises
  7. The near extinction notion of “privacy”
  8. Donald Trump

And certainly, I would be pessimistic if I thought this world were going to come to pass: a conflict-torn dystopia presided over by Donald Trump, his rich, gummy pensioner sidekicks and an army of efficient, soulless – literally – robots, everyone knowing your business because the notions of public and private spheres have collapsed, lungs catarrhed with smog, moving imperceptibly through piles of human beings in order to get to a cash point to take out a twenty to give to an old person, while someone from the government literally points and laughs at you.

I’m being very facetious, obviously. The above are certainly reasons to be pessimistic – there are, likely, plenty others. And pessimistic we are, as YouGov proves.

But come on, guys, I think we can do better. I tire of the relentless sympathy for the ‘plight’ of being young. This is our prime! There’s a lot that we can’t do much about, but there is plenty we can – we are young and nimble, swift of mind and foot. We have mates; we have a laugh. Sometimes we have more money than we thought we did, so sometimes we spend it all at once. And I swear we don’t think about the future as much as people think we do: it’s a mirage – unfixed, shifting – and while we are moving towards it we know we won’t really end up there for a while. Honestly, the idea of being old really doesn’t occur to me much at all. I’m too busy fucking stuff up right now. Which is fine – because that’s what I’m meant to do.

So let’s all cheer up a bit. Be more sympathetic and co-operative, and stop thinking so much. And then you might believe a bit more in the essential alright-ness of life.