Something is happening online wherein it has become fashionable for objectively young people to say that they feel hideously, grotesquely old. The sentiment is everywhere: self-deprecating, semi-ironic bemoans of being an elderly hag surrounded by mere tots. On Twitter, 17-year-olds go viral for feeling ancient compared to the middle schoolers on their timelines. On Instagram, meme accounts share images of the Golden Girls captioned with “me watching TikTok.” On TikTok itself, college kids act as though they’re too washed to be on the app at all, while commenters praise Selena Gomez as the “queen of aging,” as if by 28 one should expect to be a rapidly shriveling crone (which, if you’ve ever read one of the dozens of BuzzFeed articles about the difference between being in your early 20s versus your late 20s, is in some way accurate).
There is now a kind of cottage industry for this precise emotion, made up of memes, listicles, and trend stories that are often in imagined response to missed milestones like making Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list or the presences of unfathomably young children. If deep-fried Minions memes are emblematic of boomer Facebook groups, the 20-something version is a tweet that says, “u know you’re past 25 when your ideal Friday night is a murder podcast and a face mask.” There are, by my count, at least 10 stories in major national publications about how TikTok makes people as young as 18 feel too old to be there.
“[Posts] about feeling old consistently do really well,” says Sarah Merrill, the creator of the popular meme account @BigKidProblems, who describes herself as “31 going on 85.” “I live on the internet and make memes for a living, but I cannot for the life of me figure out TikTok. I’m like, ‘This is where I become irrelevant.’”
As someone who covers the current “young person” app, I hear this a lot from people, regardless of age. They say they can’t get into TikTok because it makes them feel like an Old, that they’re too tired to learn the dance moves or understand the memes. No one should spend time on a platform they don’t care about, but to avoid something just because it triggers some horrible realization about your own mortality — despite often only being a few years removed from the age of most of its users — suggests that something is extremely wrong with the way we think about growing up.
This might sound counterintuitive if you’ve kept up with the news over the past decade. Adulthood, by most measures, is starting later for young people; millennials are delaying marriage (or not marrying at all) and delaying homeownership (or realizing they’ll never be able to buy a home anyway). Though the oldest millennials are in their late 30s, media still treats us as though we are permanently floundering 25-year-olds, and yet an element of this is our own doing: We are the inventors of ironic or infantilizing trends like “adulting” and “I’m baby,” the age group that’s still weirdly obsessed with having been deemed “gifted children” and its resultant effects on our mental health. Though the term “Gen Z” has largely replaced “millennial” as shorthand for the increasingly loud and frenzied discussions about youth in the media and online, in the popular imagination, both groups barely seem to count as grown-ups at all.
So why, then, do young people say they feel so old? There is a case to be made that everyone in their late teens and 20s — often a time of seismic life upheaval — experiences some degree of a rapidly fading youth. These years are often a second adolescence that’s arguably scarier than the first: For many, it’s the first time they’re without financial support, the first experience living without family, or their first time in the workforce. For others who’ve been working to support their families from a young age, they’re grieving a lost youth and an uncertain future.
There are pressures to have it “all figured out” within 10 years or risk fading into obscurity as you stare down the barrel of 30, the culturally agreed-upon moment where you’re supposed to suddenly have your life together, if for no other reason than because it is a nice round number.
24 year olds spiral out about being old more than 34 year olds
— Reed Brice (@thatdangdingus) September 16, 2020
But there is also a case to be made that the feeling of being so old, so fast, is particularly resonant right now. “I think previous generations have probably felt this but at a much smaller scale,” explains Emily Cogswell, a 24-year-old in retail management in Albany, New York. “They just had their social group to compare themselves to rather than literally every single person in the world.”
She’s referring, of course, to social media, where it is possible to measure oneself — quantitatively! — against virtually anyone else. “Women have this pressure to get everything figured out, get married, and have kids while we’re still hot,” she adds. “But we also have to reach the peak of our career by then. How does one person do that?”
I found Emily because she’d tweeted about the phenomenon I kept seeing everywhere. “U guys are really weird ab age,” she wrote. “Like as if aging is the worst thing that can happen to anyone and it happens as soon as they’re older than 25.”
There is self-deprecation at the root of age panic, a well-intentioned attempt at irony and relatability. But the more I hear people lament how ancient they feel in the presence of people younger than them, the more depressing it sounds. Devon Price, a social psychologist and professor at Loyola University of Chicago’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, articulates this well: “We have such a strange relationship to age in our culture,” they explain. “We sexualize very young people and we teach people that youth is the time of your life, that it’s when you should be achieving the absolute most. So if you haven’t done that then there’s something wrong. It kills people with insecurity.”
This, Devon argues, is what feeds into the idea that younger people are an existential threat. (I am reminded of a certain scene from 30 Rock in which Tina Fey sees a group of teenagers nearby and mutters, “Oh, no: youths,” before running away.) On some level, this fear is warranted: The existence of young people tells us that we are not young, and to be not young in America is to be rendered largely invisible, desexualized, and economically worthless, either forced out of the workforce or required to be there longer than one should.
“That’s the thing that I hate about the generational wars. Zoomers and millennials have adopted this belief that older people are all bigoted, conservative, and privileged,” Devon says. “Really, we’re both screwed over by a lot of the same systemic forces. It’s a very easy way to divide people instead of us realizing that we’re all exploited workers and that we’re all overworked.”
That we feel pressured to be wunderkinds or risk eternal obscurity is itself a product of this broken system. “Our very competitive capitalist system says by this age, you’re supposed to achieve this particular thing,” Devon adds. “And increasingly, those benchmarks of success are not attainable to people. Having children at a certain age, being able to buy a house, being financially independent — those are the things that we taught would be satisfying and bring your life meaning, and now people can’t get those things on a very fundamental economic level. It makes people feel like failures. One way that they express that is, ‘Oh, my god, I’m so old, and I still haven’t done XYZ.’”
If millennials were screwed by the Great Recession, entering the workforce to a crappy job market and saddled with skyrocketing student loan debt, just to be kneecapped by the pandemic, it’s unlikely that Gen Z, the oldest of whom are in their early 20s, will fare much better. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, why “feeling old” often sounds exactly like despair: It suggests that the fun part of life is over, yet the stable part of life, the one with a house and a family and a career, feels both out of reach and overdue.
This is a central idea of Anne Helen Petersen’s recent book, Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, which tracks how tax laws, the gig economy, and the Great Recession, among many other things, screwed over young people (and unlike the viral essay that preceded it, how they have also had devastating consequences for anyone alive right now no matter what year they were born).
“The internet isn’t the root cause of our burnout,” she writes in the opening chapter, “but its promise to ‘make our lives easier’ is a profoundly broken one, responsible for the illusion that ‘doing it all’ isn’t just possible, but mandatory. When we fail to do so, we don’t blame the broken tools. We blame ourselves.” This, she argues, gives iPhone-addicted millennials and zoomers vastly unrealistic expectations about what our lives should look like, and therefore outsize self-hatred for when we don’t meet those expectations by a certain age.
“24 year olds spiral out about being old more than 34 year olds,” reads a tweet from comedian and performance artist Reed Brice earlier this month. Reed is 33, which means he’s over the hump of early-20s age panic. “Turning 30 was the best thing that ever happened to a dork, because now the pressure is off for me to try to be cool,” he told me.
Culture moves faster than it ever has — there are more TV shows, more TikToks, more niche memes and internet drama than any one person could ever possibly keep up with (and even if they did, what kind of hellhole life would that be?). We forget how boring being a teenager is, how much time we had to fill up with invented narratives simply to entertain ourselves or distract from the crushing weight and powerlessness of being confined to your parents’ house. Of course teenagers are more familiar with newer songs or newer memes. What else are they going to do!
It’s also impossible to talk about the fear of aging without talking about the precise terror that it represents for women. Our worth is inseparable from our youth, so much so that embracing the effects of time is considered a radical act (see: grombre hair or the entirety of the skin care industry). Any attempt to describe exactly how much this fact is intrinsic to our selfhood will sound trite, but here is an example from my life:
When I was 19, I had never felt so old, and never more conscious of the fact that I was still so young. Living in New York City as a young woman will do that to you, but my clearest, and saddest, memory was at the bars I would frequent while underage, all too aware that the only power I had over the 20-something men — men I thought had glamorous jobs and lots of money but who were of course all perfectly average 23-year-olds in the East Village — was that it was sort of sexy that I was too young to be there. I may not have been the skinniest or the most beautiful girl at the bar, but I was always the youngest, and that felt like something. My age felt so cosmically significant that it instilled in me a deep fear of every birthday that followed, as though I was slowly being stripped of that one gasp of agency I cherished so much.
Like almost every other woman I know, I am still weird about age, and the fact that 30 is not so far away looms ever-present in the decisions I make and the culture I consume. Complaining about your age should be a boring and embarrassing thing to do, because everyone is rocketing toward our twilight years at the exact same speed. But it is still so, so much better than being 19, or 15, or 12. This, I think, is what we tend to forget when we openly envy teens: Being a teenager sucks.
“There’s so many great things about getting older,” Devon says. “People tend to become more satisfied with their lives and their relationships. Upsetting emotions tend to be less intense. You have more of a sense of perspective on negative things, because you’ve seen it before. We have fewer relationships, but we invest in those relationships more deeply.”
This is the trade-off we were supposed to make when we graduated from the chaos of teenagehood, that life would become more satisfying, that we would become wiser and more at peace. That people in their 20s still feel used and tossed out is not because they are suddenly being confronted with teenagers on TikTok, but because of our failure to support young people in their pursuit of a fulfilling life: to help them out of student debt, to provide affordable housing, to offer jobs with actual benefits. The sad part is not that we are old. It’s that we’re too old for this shit.
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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
Classic toy tie-up: Etch A Sketch maker to acquire Rubik’s Cube
Spin Master Corp., the company behind the Etch A Sketch and Paw Patrol brands, has agreed to acquire Rubik’s Brand Ltd. for about $50 million, tying together two of the world’s most iconic toy brands.
The merger comes at a boom time for classic toymakers, as parents turn to familiar products to entertain kids stuck in lockdown. Like sales of Uno, Monopoly and Barbie dolls, Rubik’s Cube purchases have spiked during the pandemic, according to the puzzle maker’s chief executive officer, Christoph Bettin. He expects sales to jump 15% to 20% in 2020, compared with a normal year, when people purchase between 5 million and 10 million cubes.
By acquiring Rubik’s, Toronto-based Spin Master can better compete with its larger rivals, Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. All three companies have pivoted to become less reliant on actual product sales, diversifying into television shows, films and broader entertainment properties based on their toys. Spin Master CEO Anton Rabie said he wouldn’t rule out films or TV shows based on Rubik’s Cubes, but he was focused for now on creating more cube-solving competitions and crossmarketing it with the company’s other products, like the Perplexus.
“Whoever you are, it really has a broad appeal from a consumer standpoint,” Rabie said in an interview. “It’s actually going to become the crown jewel; it will be the most important part of our portfolio worldwide.”
Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik created the Rubik’s Cube in 1974, a solid block featuring squares with colored stickers that users could twist and turn without it falling apart. It gained popularity in the 1980s and has remained one of the best-selling toys of all time, spawning spinoff versions, international competitions of puzzle solvers, books and documentaries.
The toy has been particularly well-suited to pandemic conditions. During lockdowns, parents have sought to give kids puzzles that boost problem-solving skills useful in math and science careers. Normally, toys tied to major film franchises are among the most popular products headed into the holidays, but studios have delayed the release of major new movies because of coronavirus. So classic products are experiencing a mini-renaissance.
“The whole pandemic has really increased games and puzzles,” Rabie said. “But whether the pandemic existed or didn’t exist, we’d still buy Rubik’s. It’s had such steady sales for decades.”
Rubik’s CEO Bettin said it was the right time to sell the company, with the founding families behind it ready to move on. London-based Rubik’s Brand was formed out of a partnership between Erno Rubik and the late entrepreneur Tom Kremer, while private equity firm Bancroft Investment holds a minority stake in the company.
Early on, Bettin felt Spin Master was the right home for the puzzle toy, he said. Spin Master, which was started by a group of three friends in 1994, has expanded through the purchase of well-known brands, including Erector sets and Etch A Sketch. Rabie says he works to honor the “legacy” of those products, which Bettin cited as a key reason to sell the brand to Spin Master over larger companies that were interested.
“It was important for us to not be lost in the crowd, and to be sufficiently important and cared for,” Bettin said. “And there’s a balance between being with someone large enough to invest, and agile enough to ensure you are key part of their plans.”
Spin Master won’t own Rubik’s Cubes in time for the holiday season – the transaction is expected to close on Jan. 4. At that time, the company will move Rubik’s operations from a small office in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood to Spin Master’s new games operations center in Long Island.
Some of Rubik’s Brand’s 10 employees will be part of the transition, but they won’t stay permanently, Bettin said.
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