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Vietnam’s Young Generation: Wasting Away or Just Misunderstood?

In Hanoi, and perhaps anywhere else in the world today, it has become an ordinary sight to see young people hanging out in coffee shops, the sidewalk and other “in” spots and staring down on their smart phones surfing the internet for popular websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among others. While a significant portion of the adult group is also into the “trend,” the youth comprises the largest part and when they are supposed to be the hope of the world, seeing them “caught up,” to say the least, in this rapidly increasing “social media lifestyle” is a cause for panic for what the future may hold not only for their generation but for those to come.

While it’s an extraordinary advancement and convenience, spending too much time on the internet at the expense of more important things like work, chores and exercise for instance brings the danger of laziness and unhealthiness especially to the young people who should be active both mentally and physically.

Popular sights in Hanoi like the Cathedral; Haoi Opera House; Thang Long Royal Citadel; West Lake; the streets of Trieu Viet Vuong, Nguyen Huu Huan and Hang Non; and even karaoke bars are the common places where young people usually stay after school or work. A survey revealed that over 800,000 of them are either students from universities and colleges in Hanoi or private entrepreneurs. These are citizens under 40 years old which comprises one third of the whole population or about 20 million people, a significant number considering its effect to the common consumer, the community lifestyle and culture in general.

Aside from immersing in the internet, the youth today, and perhaps the older generation as well, also have a growing passion for travelling and adventure like never before. Even without proper funding, people nowadays seem to take the risk of travelling around the world for the sake of adventure. The need for financing their trips seem to come later along the way. A backpack travelling movement called “Phuot” became popular in Vietnam after a young girl named Huyen Chip went to 25 countries with only a backpack and $700 pocket money. Her risky journey inspired an urban youth type of sense of adventure among the other young people who started travelling around the globe, too not so much for income gain but really just for experience and memories. It became so famous that a book was even written about it although it soon faded as well as with the whole rebellious concept because of some discrepancies which people began to question.

Another obvious rising trait among teenagers today is the reactionary attitude. They seem to react so quick now to events and other matters before thinking things through. This is evident in social networking sites again like Facebook status, Twitter tweet, online forums, public comments, etc. Not only this, there seems to be an air of consumption or aggression in the young today in that they demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and/ or needs and express rebellion or even violent tendencies when and if their demands are not met.

But while this seems to depict a negative image of the youth today, there are of course equal and perhaps more positive aspects of the young people of the 20th century. For one, they are more expressive now than ever before, comfortable and confident in airing their opinions in even the most sensitive issues like politics, racism, bullying, etc. They are more aware of their rights now so that they know what to stand for and seriously stand by it. The young, as well as the adults, give more importance now for such values as family bonding, friends’ get-together and other forms of gatherings among loved ones.

While today’s youth is negatively labelled as “the sitting urban young people” with such materialistic terms as “take away,” internet, social media and coffee shops attached to them, let us hope that underneath these seemingly superficial modern lifestyle is a deeper and more meaningful plan and action for their lives today and the future.

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