Didn’t get to university? Failure!

Single didn’t make it to number 1? LO-SER!

Not thin? Well you must be fat, then!

Not made a million by your 30s? Deadbeat!

Since when did the stakes get so high?

I’m pretty sure I recall a time when artists would give interviews about how amazing it was to have a single in the Top 40. Now they are seen as old news or non-starters if their single doesn’t come straight in at number 1, and are frequently dropped by labels who expect nothing less than the top spot. I went on holiday last summer and Lady Gaga was a massive star, I got back and she was a played out Madonna copyist hasbeen because her comeback single happened not to sell 97 million copies. OK, admittedly no one sells singles anymore and a stoat that looks good in denim shorts and has a dubstep influenced dancefloor banger can make it to number one, but even so…

Life is getting more all-or-nothing all the time. Even Masterchef is at it with its military-crisis cooking music and weepy tragedy playouts for those who don’t make it through. Calm down, dear, it’s only a crème brule with cinder toffee shavings.

It’s the telly equivalent of wildly overdramatic, self pitying posts on social media (‘No guacamole left at Sainsburys *weeps*’). A medium which, we are frequently told, is making us all compare ourselves to one another, become wildly solipsistic and sob into our lattes that our lives are so much less cool and exciting than everyone else’s. Personally I’m delighted to vicariously live a life of partying and festival attendance of my online contacts who are still doing so. They do the hard work so I don’t have to.

For kids growing up with online oversharing as the norm, it may be a different matter though. I don’t feel I have anything to prove online, but when I think about how much I would have wanted to when I was 14, well… major teen trauma, you can just imagine it. JUST LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS I AM PROVING ABOUT ME!

University is another absolutist one. Governments have queued up to tell kids that it’s university or nuthin’ if you want to make something of your life. Doubtless this was intended as a rallying cry to go forth to the towers of academia and start getting those respectable middle class jobs. But I suspect too often it is read by young people as the wagging finger of failure, and a further reason to write themselves off if they don’t get that uni place. Hence people, usually the least advantaged students, ending up at barrel scraping universities with nothing but a massive debt and then a job they could have done after leaving school. Their middle class peers, of course, often face massive debt and several years of unpaid work (possibly after a post graduate qualification). The stakes are high, got to take what you can get, and competition for those internships is hot. Sure, they’re supposed to pay interns now, but you can be sure plenty of employers are managing to ignore this and continue to lock out those kids who can’t afford to work for nothing in a field they might actually like.

Then there’s body image. Putting on any weight at all is pretty universally described or implied to be ‘getting fat’. There’s no inbetween from the unfathomably desirable ‘skinny’ and the dreaded ‘fat’. Girls who would never dream of pointing at women the same size as themselves and yelling ‘Lardarse!’ will nonetheless apply it to their own bodies because they don’t match vital stats with Cara Delvinge and don’t have the surely‐actually‐physically‐impossible ‘thigh gap’. And as I have mentioned before, there’s now a race to the bottom with ever smaller clothes sizes that no one even stocked 10 years ago that are now becoming the size you ‘should’ be. Yes… if you are 9 years old.

Ages are arbitrarily thrown at us by which time we should have done this, that or the other, especially when it comes to childbirth (women) and job title (men). And we are told to LOOK at this fucking hipster who has made his first million by the age of 17 by doing something spectacularly product‐free and meta which is by some bizarre means bringing in money.

I think most of us can put this crap in proportion. We can say ‘Well that’s nice dear, but at the end of the day I like cake, not being responsible for making anyone redundant, and not entering Masterchef’; but you have to wonder to what pitch of hysteria those unfortunate enough to grow up in the shouty maelstrom of social media are going to be wound? Hopefully someone will teach them to chill out and laugh at amusing pictures of cats like every other happily deadbeat loser.