Where are the skills at?

There are some things I’ll never understand. When collars became clip-on, how people can eat Kitkats without dunking them in tea, why the word ‘pontificate’ sounds so nice in your head but said aloud makes you sound like a right twat… And there are skills I’ll never accumulate, too; I’ll never be an amazing coder (I imagined HTML was like Paint By Numbers, it’s really not), never be a whizz with numbers, laptops or cream-based puddings, never be a child prodigy (I figure once you’re too old for Junior Apprentice, this ship has sailed), and I’ll probably never play the saxophone.

But, for my sins, I’ve picked up a whole host of useless skills being part of a social-media obsessed generation: I can type without looking, I can take almost elbow-less photos of myself, I can send scathing complaint letters in 160 characters and I can send 14 emails between Sainsburys and lectures. We have so much information thrust down our throats thanks to social media, I mean, the Royal Baby was barely announced before there were photos and videos going viral, the poor thing. Does the modern world prepare us for everything, but equip us with nothing?

My grandmother knows stuff. She knows to knit and darn, how to make two potatoes feed an entire family, how to live on a shoestring budget and how to turn a shoestring into a instrument (ok, I made the last one up). We’ve been so spoilt as a generation, indulged with flavoured lattes, free wifi, invoicing apps and really, really good marketing of probiotic products, that there are no choices for us to make. My generation doesn’t need to change or adapt to survive, they just had to become the consumerist, technologically-savvy, marketing-hungry individuals Innocent always knew we were. Surely we’ve reached our peak of convenience when Nationwide can, quite literally, transfer you to money to any cashpoint in the world? I mean ANY cashpoint in the world. Even in India, you can run for the hills and pick up a Paneer Burger in Macdonalds on the way. Culture shock? Perhaps not.

There is no solution to this problem of ease. I’d say switch off devices for the night but, realistically, you never really can switch off your phone. As my housemate said the other day, I think in tweets. We’ve internalized the very problem. (Imagine a world where people could only communicate in 160 characters. Perhaps that would be nice; at least it would be a challenge to pick-up a girl with only a hashtag and a handful of words to hide behind). But I digress; the point is that marketing has created a problem for us – as we’re spoonfed more and more information in increasingly subtle and creative ways (I mean, sure, I really wanted to buy a Yeo Valley product after their boy band advert), we lose ourselves as skilled indidivuals. All those things that make my grandmother such an interesting, diverse person, intuition, logic, inventiveness, creativity, daring, can’t really be said for a generation who sit around retweeting Ed Sheeran and eating ready meals all day. So I’m going to lay down a new New Year’s Resolution early this year: I’m going to develop some skills. Real ones. Like the olden days. Even if this means knitting classes with some OAPs.

If Age Concern isn’t your vibe, check out some more trendy classes on offer in London at uber-hip The Idler Academy or The School of Life, where education is being made fashionable all over again. So fashionable I’ll probably tweet about it. Right. About. Now.

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