Published in the Career Moves section of the Evening Echo on 10/09/2007
What do most young people in Ireland want to be when they grow up?
The answer, according to a survey of 1,300 Irish teenagers aged between 13 and 19 for an RTÉ radio show last summer, revealed that a staggering 85% of boys and 80% of girls want to be… famous.
That’s right – famous!
The survey was carried out by researchers for the RTÉ radio show, Fame! It seems that while the government harps on about the knowledge economy, encouraging our bright young talent to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and other fields, a worrying 56% of boys and 40% of girls surveyed said they would drop out of school for a shot at becoming a celebrity.
Instead of aspiring to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, teachers, researchers or a host of other careers, the youth of Ireland (and I suspect much of the developed world) want to become the next Britney Spears, Roy Keane, or even… wait for it… Podge and Rodge! Apparently 35% of Irish teenagers genuinely believe that they’ll be famous when they “grow up”.
While this was only a one off survey, and isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of what Ireland’s youth is really thinking, it nonetheless has disturbing connotations. Somehow the celebrity image peddled by magazines like “Hello”, “OK” and “VIP” has taken root in the collective psyche of today’s youth. It’s an image of glitz, glamour, and easy money – which, for the average teenager, is a heady and compelling mix.
According to the survey half of the teenagers questioned thought being famous would be “fun”, nearly a quarter of them “just wanted to be on television”, 40% saw attaining celebrity status as a way of “proving people wrong”, while 15% believed that becoming famous would make them “more attractive”!
Of course, what teenagers are really looking for is celebrity, not fame. Celebrity is all hype and spin… smoke and mirrors. There’s no real substance to it.
Fame on the other hand, is different. Though often confused with its younger sibling celebrity, fame is a very different animal. Fame is a by-product of remarkable achievement: exceptional acting, outstanding writing, incredible cinematography, moving artistic talent, sporting genius, scientific excellence, a world-changing invention… whatever. Fame is usually born of hard work, talent, dedication and commitment.
Truly famous people don’t tend to set out with a career goal of becoming famous… fame is just a by-product of excelling in their chosen field.
Celebrity, on the other hand, is born on a whim, and has no material substance at all. It has nothing at all to do with talent or accomplishment – it’s more about column inches and air-time. Celebrity is manufactured rather than earned: a recent phenomenon spawned by a media hungry to exploit a public’s insatiable appetite for other people’s lives. Celebrity is about image rather than achievement, perception rather than reality.
Let’s hope that most of our teenage wannabes come to their senses sooner rather than later, and go on to pursue worthwhile careers in the real world rather than chasing shadows. With a bit of luck this unhealthy obsession with celebrity will turn out to be just another teenage fad….
You can see the results of the survey online on the RTÉ website.
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