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For the 'funemployed,' unemployment's welcomed

These jobless folks, usually singles in their 20s and 30s, find that life without work agrees with them. They're not sending out resumes, but instead lazing at the beach and taking long trips abroad.

June 04, 2009|Kimi Yoshino

For some in older generations, watching their children embrace an escape from responsibility is difficult. So while a young unemployed person might be saying, "This is awesome. I'm having a really good time," their parents are probably asking, "Haven't you gotten a job yet?" Twenge said.

Flores' decision to quit her job was initially met by concern and worry by her parents and some friends, but she thinks it's partly because they simply can't relate. By the time her parents' generation reached their late 20s and early 30s, most were married with children.

Van Gorkom's father had a similar response. Since being laid off as Yahoo Music's director of user experience design, Van Gorkom said he has purchased a laptop and started shopping for a new couch, "which my dad doesn't understand." As he spends money, his father is nervously asking Van Gorkom whether he needs any money.

USC's Logan isn't convinced funemployment is unique to this generation. The notion of slackers -- or whatever label is in vogue -- has been around for decades. What's different, he said, is the new social media that allows the unemployed to find each other and make plans through Facebook and Twitter.

Andy Deemer, one of Rounsaville's traveling companions, points out that they went to Mongolia with "someone two people removed from me that I had only met once two years ago at a cocktail party." The 36-year-old New Yorker and college pal of Rounsaville's, said they connected with that third travel mate through Facebook and word of mouth.

The daily lives of the unemployed have never been more public. They can post online photos of globe-trotting vacations, blog about their long lunches and broadcast via Twitter the day's weighty choices, as @james6378 did last week when deciding between Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes cereals.

By thumbing their collective noses at employment, they also are sending a message to corporate America, Logan said.

"People are saying screw it and they're leaving companies," Logan said. "We need to figure out how to make companies work better for everybody. Until that happens . . . early retirements and furloughs are going to continue. People are going to opt out of the system."

Deemer, an independent filmmaker who also worked at CNET and about.com, said he actually enjoyed corporate America, up until November when the Internet start-up he was working for failed to get financing. After it tanked, he sold his New York apartment, put his belongings in storage, turned his parents' Beijing home into base camp, and embarked on a spiritual quest to find various mystics and shamans around Asia.

"I'm a little worried," he said of his future financial stability. "There's a nagging sense of fear that does gnaw at me when I consider it."

But Deemer has taken big risks before in the name of fulfilling a dream. He quit his CNET job to make the low-budget cult movie "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead," which still makes him "smile big." He expects no less from his Asian adventure.

With his friends in tow, Deemer has already managed to visit a fortuneteller in Myanmar and a tarot card reader in Thailand, and to spend a few days with Saffron Revolution monks near the Thailand-Myanmar border. In Mongolia, he searched 10 days for a reindeer-herding shaman, finally tracking her down on his last day.

She wore tight jeans, a glittery purple sweater and a rhinestone headband. She typed on a laptop. He found her both mystical and authentic, though when he returned from his Trans-Siberian adventure to Beijing, he felt unchanged.

But since he was seeking answers, the Mongolian shaman had one for him. On a Post-it, she wrote his fortune in Cyrillic. The last sentence, in a nutshell: Go back to work.

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kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

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