One of my personal bugbears is that old cliché, “My five-year-old can set the video recorder; I don’t even know where to put the tape in”. As well as being a mainstay of mainstream stand-up comedy from the late 80s, I also heard it in plenty of real-life conversations. Yeah, I know… it was only ever supposed to be light-hearted, and mostly an exaggeration, but I still can’t help finding it irritating. Maybe because it seems like a celebration of complacent stupidity, I dunno.
Alarm bells started to ring, then, when I read that Morgan Stanley, purveyors of Complicated Grown-Up Stuff, had employed a 15-year-old intern to tell them about teenage media habits. Yep, we’ve now regressed to not understanding a jot about this new media stuff… bring on the spotty kid!
Apart from my double-take at the phrase “15-year-old intern” (do they not have skateboards, underpasses and cheap alcopops where this poor little chap lives?) it also amused me that such a large corporation would place so much trust in the word of one teenager… “We’ve had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day”, according to the executive director of their European media team. Let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves what has been happening to the economy recently, eh?
I also found some of the conclusions surprising. As did the Guardian’s Tim Dowling, whose teenage child’s comments are much closer to what I’d expect from my (slightly younger) niece. Dowling is spot on with his conclusion… whatever Morgan Stanley may have been told, this is a social group that largely expects to get every short-lived fad for free, so why are we even asking them? Your five-year-old may well be able to program your networked multimedia device, but have you seen what he’s actually recorded for you?