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Sobriety Is The New Black

2018 September 13th

Most adults today are in a loving, stable and committed relationship with alcohol.

We celebrate with it, we connect over it, we turn to it. It’s more than a just product, it’s a social lubricant with which we interact with others and the world around us.

It’s so entrenched in our day-to-day rituals and habits, such an important part of the occasions that we hold dear, that our relationship with it has been unquestionably normalised.

Today, for most of us, we don’t even think about it.  But now, for the first time in generations, this normal is being challenged by the people that have traditionally embraced it the most.

The youth.

"But now, for the first time in generations, this normal is being challenged by the people that have traditionally embraced it the most.
The youth. "

Around the world, young people in increasing numbers have started asking questions about society’s relationship with alcohol and the answers they’re finding are leading them to put down the booze in favor of a cleaner, more sober approach to life.

And it’s not just alcohol. Cigarettes and drugs are also in decline amongst Millennials and Gen Z.

As to why - and why now - there are a number of factors at play.

The role of health and mindfulness has seen a meteoric boom in the last decade – making us all, that much more conscious of everything we do and put into our bodies. Embraced by celebrity, pop culture and a new generation of health and well-being influencers, clean-living has never looked so good, or been so prominent, creating a new narrative of what it means to be young and free.

"Clean-living has never looked so good, or been so prominent, creating a new narrative of what it means to be young and free."

This is complimented by a global rise in social conscious and political awareness amongst young people, not seen since the idealism of the 60’s. Facing global issues, with implications that overwhelmingly affect their generation more than any other demographic, many see a sober perspective as a natural course to tackle the challenges that matter most.

And finally, it’s a response to a changing world and a considered intention to create their place in it. The fast pace of the world today challenges our ability to prioritise what’s important to us – with so many choices and so much to do – it challenges us to choose. For some young people today, the choice to abstain is about ambition. Ambition to create a full and meaningful life by ultimately prioritising productivity over play.

In looking at it, there’s no doubt that all of these factors hold weight and are a real part of what’s driving this shift. 

But outside of these more pragmatic impulses, there’s another more emotional dynamic at play.

That’s not about ambition, health or changing the world. 

It’s an act of rebellion.

"Not about ambition, health or changing the world. It’s an act of rebellion."

The youth are inherently coded to rebel, question, challenge, disrupt. The vantage point from which they view the world engenders in them a unique perspective. They bring fresh eyes to incumbent behaviours, new ideas to old problems. Its why young people tend to be more disruptive, have a legacy of being more innovative.

This is why at its core, below the surface of conscious reason and intentions, the youth’s newfound abstinence is actually a quiet resistance to the culture they’ve inherited.

A counter-culture to the existing status quo. 

Which is of course what young people do. They rebel. So, for some young people today, rebellion means choosing green juices over beers, early mornings over late nights.

And, in doing so, once again rebelling against the very idea of rebellion itself.

Written by
Michael Leslie