My 12-year-old daughter said something to me the other day that, while at the time it made me piss myself laughing, upon closer examination, made me very concerned about where we’re all heading as a society.
She said, “The less you try, the more attention you get.”
Now, this little flippant remark by my daughter probably needs some context.
My daughter and I were sitting around the table eating breakfast and my daughter wanted to show me a social media “influencer” that she’d discovered named Bella Poarch.
Now, of coarse, I didn’t know who this person was but apparently, this girl has shot to fame on TikTok and now boasts over a billion views.
So, if you’ve never heard of this Bella Poarch before, you’re probably asking yourself what does she do. Is she a world-class artist? Or an amazing dancer? Maybe she’s a fantastic athlete.
Surely, in order to accrue over a billion views, she must be doing something exceptional.
Well, in this day and age, this apparently is how you get a billion views:
A BILLION VIEWS. That’s 1000, million views.
So, I have to say, after my daughter showed me a video of what Bella Poarch does. I was kinda dumbfounded. I just, didn’t, get it.
So, I asked my daughter, “She’s literally not doing anything. She’s staring at the camera bobbing her head. That’s it! That’s literally it! What's the big appeal??”
And my daughter answered, “I know! She doesn’t do anything! See dad, the less you try, the more attention you get!”
This. This attitude, is what parents are up against today.
Now, before we go on, I want to make something very clear here. I’m not having a go at Bella Poarch personally here. I have nothing against Bella Poarch the person. I’m sure she’s a lovely person in real life. Let me make this very clear. I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST BELLA POARCH THE PERSON.
However, I have EVERYTHING against Bella Poarch the archetype. Her behaviour represents everything that most parents in the western world are terrified of: raising a child who doesn’t contribute to the world in any meaningful manner.
So you might say “What do you mean? She’s not on drugs, she’s not behaving disrespectfully, she’s not overtly putting anyone wilfully in danger, she’s just having a bit of light-hearted, meaningless fun”.
Well, therein lies the problem.
You see, if you ask just about every single boy and girl between the ages of 9 and 15, my daughter included, they all want to be a YouTuber when they grow up.
All of their favourite celebrities are you tubers, they couldn’t care less about traditional legacy media personalities and celebrities unless they’ve appeared in a recent Disney franchise.
My daughter, as much as I absolutely adore her, is still your typical tweenager who is totally immersed in social media. And As much as I’ve tried to manoeuvre her away from the influences of social media personalities, their impact is ultimately inevitable.
If you are a parent and your child goes to school and wants to fit in and have friends then they will have to be well versed in the cultural zeitgeist of their generation.
No matter how hard I try, I’m not going to get my pre-teen daughter interested in global politics or macroeconomics or evolutionary psychology. That’s what I’m interested in. And quite frankly if she was, I’d be wondering why…
So, for all you aspiring parents out there, keep this in mind. If you think , like I did, that you are going to be able to keep your child free of social media, it’ll be like trying to hold back a tsunami with a tarpaulin. Better to learn to manage the situation with openness, honesty and communication.
So sometimes, if I want to spend time with my daughter, I have to watch what she wants to watch. That’s what you do as a father, sometimes you gotta suck it up and watch some shrieking idiot play Roblocks on youtube for 30 very long minutes,
because if you don’t she’s gonna disappear into her room and watch it by herself anyway.
And what these YouTubers are teaching our kids, and I say this having spent hundreds and hundreds of hours being immersed in my daughters content of choice is that doing dumb shit gets you views.
“The less you try, the more attention you get”.
Now, Maybe you're saying, ‘why don’t I take her for a bike ride, or take her somewhere for a daddy-daughter date? Well, after a full day of school and homework, my daughters exhausted. She wants to decompress like anyone would after a hard day's work. I get that. She just wants to chill in front of the TV for a bit before bed. She wants to switch off her brain and watch some mindless rubbish.
And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with winding down at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, the barriers to creating your own mindless rubbish, to emulate your heroes on the screen, is lower than it’s ever been before.
When I was a kid, I watched lots of crap. In fact, there were a number of shows that my parents banned my brother and me for watching because of their complete stupidity. A show called “Let The Blood Run Free”, comes to mind.
But at least in the ’80s and the ’90s creating your own rubbish for public consumption required serious effort. It required funding, TV executive approval, equipment hire, a script...
All you need now is a camera and an internet connection.
For a generation where having everything you want exactly when you want it has become normalised, the presumed lifestyles of girls like Bella Poarch are incredibly seductive for a young woman confused at what her place in the world is.
Being a social media influencer is the way out of this. My daughter's words carried so much more weight than the flippant tone she used uttering them. To her “the less you try, the more attention you get” was dripping in subtext.
Through her pre-teen eyes, the lifestyle of social media influencers was the perfect solution to the problem facing every young person these days, “what is my purpose, what am I here for, how do I fit into this over-complicated world?”
Becoming a social media influencer means solving the problem of earning a living financially, without having to worry about how you can best contribute to the world.
And in a world as complicated as this one, what better way to overcome that problem than by finding a way to get paid by not contributing meaningfully at all.
Honestly, think about it. Think of the uphill battle that parents with daughters face. If your daughter is moderately pretty then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to convince them, in this day and age, to “earn a living” the old fashioned way.
First, your daughter is going to have to figure out what they honestly like doing, which is easier said than done. I know many people, including myself, who have spent decades trying to find their purpose, and some people go to their graves never having found it, and I think that’s one of the saddest things that can happen to an individual.
Then, you have to figure out how to train yourself adequately in order to be employable within your chosen field. Then, you have to figure out how to pay for said training.
Then, when you’ve spent half a decade ticking the boxes of someone else’s criteria that tells you whether or not you’re competent in your chosen field, then you have to compete for a job.
Then in order to keep said job, you have to do what someone else tells you to do.
And at the end of it all, the government takes half of your money before you get your hands on it.
The whole system is designed to stifle freedom. To make you trapped within a toxic system.
If you had the opportunity to opt-out of that system, and all you had to do was film yourself taking a shower, or lip-synch to a song that someone else created, wouldn’t you take it?
So, the challenge for parents these days is to instil in their daughters a sense of contribution. REAL contribution. And the only way to do that is to give your daughters the feeling that they have something other than their physical appearance to contribute to society.
I know, it’s not easy, you’re basically trying to sell the merits of taking the hard road over the VERY fucking easy one. It’s a damn tough sell.
And it takes consistent time and effort to help anyone, your daughters AND your sons, to find their purpose in their life. And it’s frustrating and exasperating. My daughters only 12 years old, and she already has an entire bedroom filled with the souvenirs of vocational dead ends.
But, as a parent, this is what you’ve got to do. The path to success is littered with false starts. But the alternative to putting in this effort is finding your child on only fans one day.
So, for you fathers out there, give your daughter an extra big hug tonight and tell her you’ll always be there for them. And for crying out loud, fucking mean it when you say it. Because, if you’re not there for them, to guide them and support them, social media influencers like Bella Poarch will more than be happy to step in for you...