Friday, April 15, 2011

Gen Y?

And the generation gaps go on and on. Photographer to be found here.

Lauren Says: 

I’ve never understood the idea of splitting people up into ‘generations’. I think partly because the name of my generation was so ambiguous as I was growing up, and I lived in such a fluid time for our society and technology that the expectations about who we’d grow up to be shifted time and time again. Also, I never quite fathomed the idea that you could define a group of people by age group and have that span across cultures and countries, the idea that a girl who had grown up in Paraguay or India might have the same overarching values and goals as me seeming unlikely. This was before I’d really grasped the idea that a whole bunch of the things we talk about and theories espoused in our media are generalised, Westernised, applicable to the upper-middle class white person only concepts and everyone else just gets to watch.

But now thanks to the ever popular Talking About My Generation, an Australian television program, and the huge resurgence in the media of defining and discussing generational grouping, I’ve been able to find out that I belong to ‘Generation Y’. Y for Yay! (right?) It’s nice to know I fit somewhere. I’ve also found out that as a Generation Y-er I’m apparently inherently selfish, lazy, capable of dealing with things only if I get them the instant I want them and in the way that I want, incredibly naïve when it comes the ways of advertisers and the media and am awesome at technology. Also, given the way people talk about my generation on TAYG, or the way us Ys are represented in stand-up comedy or media in general, I’m incredibly dumb, prone to dropping inane comments into otherwise intelligent conversation, complaining loudly about issues I don’t understand and don’t recognise when I’m being patronized constantly by the ‘older and wiser’ generations.

Actually, come to think of it, I don’t think I want to buy into all of this generation crap. Obviously there are things that kids my age all more or less experienced together, like the introduction of home computers, music that didn’t need to be held on anything other than the device that played it, internet on aeroplanes and self-correcting spelling mistakes. Just because we all tried it together, though, doesn’t mean that we experienced it in the same way, nor does it mean we will share the way these things define how we act, grow and achieve.

Couple such generalisation with negativity and you’re bound to get people in a tizzy. The characteristics attributed to my generation are almost wholly negative and from what I can see not exactly formed from observation on how most of us act. I mean, sure, we’ve got idiots in our age group, but so does everyone. Need I, Baby Boomers, point a finger at your fellow George W? So often, though, we are represented on television by one or two dumbed down loons or drugged up fools and the idea is reinforced that we’re an age group of idiots, not to be trusted and never to be liked.

Grouping people within our society is a very useful tool used to identify problems and growth and work best to initiate change. However, in my opinion, grouping by age these days is a pretty pointless endeavour. When I look at others ‘of my generation’ I could usefully group people by so many categories, the into the area in which they grew up, the socio-economic background they come from and currently exist in, the education they have and what they aspire to, to name some of the bigger ones. But it seems these aren’t the kinds of sectors that the media really wants to take a look at and represent. After all, it’d be a bit uncouth to put a homeless teen who only went to school for a cumulative seven years on television and laugh at them while asking Hollywood trivia questions, wouldn’t it.

Grouping people by large, general factors, such as their age, is pretty futile these days, especially if it’s done negatively, with the aim to condescend and weaken. I’m pretty young, sure, so I haven’t been around to see as much of it, but I’ve never heard of a generation spoken about more pessimistically and disapprovingly than mine. Honestly, to see the way that people my age are represented in the media is annoying and hurtful and makes me worry about how we’re all meant to be taken seriously as we grow up and move on out in the world. So please, everyone, when you think people who represent ‘Generation Y’, pick people that you would be proud to represent your own social group, and when you talk about us try and see if you can put a positive slant on it, because most of us are trying to do our best and trying really hard. So…uh…yeah…that’s all I have to say. I want you to do it, so do it! Now! 

Ell-Leigh Says: 

The other day my Dad was saying to a client how he recently read that his generation was going to be the longest living to date, since my generation’s “lifestyle” was unlikely to be able to sustain us ‘til we’re 110. In my head I remembered an episode of Oprah where Dr Oz said that my generation was likely to live to 150 since the technology allowing us to grow replicas of our own organs from stem cells to replace our tired old dying ones would be perfected in the next 30 or so years. I just nodded and raised my eyebrows on the outside, since it is nice to feel superior when you’re over the hill, and this was one win I was going to let the old guys have. However, when they’re watching down from heaven, it will be me laughing when at age 120 I get my third liver and continue to drink copious amounts of vodka into my late 140s.

So apparently our lifestyle won’t sustain us to 110, hey? Exactly what part of our lifestyle is so terribly detrimental? Sure, a lot of us like to drink a lot, but I have uncles who are accustomed to drinking just as much if not more than my lot drink, and probably just as frequently, and I imagine their lifestyle won’t come in the way of their old age as you presume ours will. Sure, we spend a lot more time sitting around playing games or reading on the internet than say, you might have done at our age, since at that time the closest thing you had to a computer took up the space of en entire room, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t as active, especially with the threat of Global Warming pushing many hip young person types to do most of their travel by bike or public transport. Sure, we may eat a whole lot of garbage and have a lot of weight issues on both ends of the scales at epidemic proportions that are yet to have been seen throughout history, but... Let me get back to you on that one after I get a burger from Hungry Jack’s.

Apparently my generation is hideously narcissistic. Well if you didn’t have to buy a new expensive roll of camera film every 24 shots when you were young I’m pretty sure you’d have taken a lot more photos until you found one that was just perfect. Sure, we may put the photos of ourselves on Facebook or publicly broadcast them on Twitter, writing a caption expressing our disdain for how terrible we look in said photo, clearly fishing for compliments (if you do this please read our article on How Not To Be a Facebook Douche). But perhaps we wouldn’t need such cheap flattery to attempt to mend our broken self-esteem if we hadn’t been raised by television?

Another attribute of our generation is to apparently avoid all blame the way One would avoid getting bitten by a zombie; see above paragraph.

Generalising such a large group of people as a certain type is rather annoying to me, as there are clearly many different types within one “generation”, and if you’re on the cusp of a generation, as I am, it is possible that you might fit in with the generation after you more than the one which you “belong” to. For example, “my generation” are mad about the Babysitters Club books which they grew up with, however, I read Babysitters Club: Little Sister books as while this young teen series was all the rage, my reading level was much lower (I was in grade 3 at the time). Similarly, although we spent the first morning of the weekend watching Saturday Disney, and we all remember the lyrics to the Captain Planet theme song, a large amount of “my generation” didn’t read the Harry Potter books throughout most of their schooling years as they were simply too old for this literary phenomena. These books made a profound impact on myself and many of the older members of the generation just younger than mine. Similarly with the advent of home computers and the internet, there are old internet fads which were long before my time, like Geocities (which were cool when I was in grade 6 and had to go to a friend’s house to actually go on the internet), that we completely missed out on but made a huge impact on the older members of our gen. How then can we be grouped together when those on the bottom rung have so little in common with those at the top?

These seemingly small differences aside, there were huge world changing events which happened during my childhood and teenage years that bind our generation, such as the Sydney 2000 Olympics, The September 11 Attack on the World Trade Centre, The Bali Bombings etc. We were old enough when these things happened for them to hit home in a way that earlier events simply couldn’t because of our ages, and we’ll always be able to find common ground through them. Together we can remember back to when Ian Thorpe, or The Thorpedo, won all those gold medals, when he had that terrible show on channel 7 called Thorpey’s Angels and when we all thought he was straight. Together we can remember back to the morning we found out about what had happened in New York on September 11 2001, how we talked about it on the bus to school, and how our teachers tried to explain what had happened in the most PC manner possible. But then again, can’t all Aussies who were older than us at the time bond over the Sydney Olympics and memories of when Nikki Webster wasn’t quite so pathetic? And can’t we all bond over the way the world changed on Sep 11?

Surely a group of people so diverse as an entire generation can’t share exactly the same traits, the suggestion is clearly ludicrous. I can think of many of my generation who are the opposite of “lazy”, a trait we all supposedly share; they’re driven ambitious and get things done. Not everyone spends hours updating their facebook and photoshopping until their profile photo is perfect – some people my age aren’t even on Facebook, and not in an attention-grabbing “I’m against facebook” wanky way, but in an honest “I just don’t have a Facebook” way. There are many Gen Ys who are making important careers for themselves, not turning up to work drunk or expecting everything while contributing nothing. We don’t all have short attention spans and we don’t all need to see instant results. Perhaps if the Gen Xs and Baby Boomers put in a little effort to get to know us instead of assuming they already know all about us, they’d be able to see it too. 

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