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generation y not
by matt snyder
pop culture

I'm getting too old for this shit.

For two years, I've watched the rising star of Generation Y first-hand. If you haven't been smitten with their star power, here's your chance to catch up. Generation Y is the new generation. Today's twenty-somethings, give or take.

They're the millennial answer to irrational exuberence, the first cradle-to-grave wired masses. And, they get by with a little help from Mom and Dad.

In all fairness, I'm not that far from them. I'm 33, right at the tail end of Generation X, that neo-lost generation of slackers and malcontents, God love 'em. Why, back in my day we had to figure out what the Internet was. We had pen pals and cassettes! Young whippersnappers!

Ok, so 33 isn't exactly AARP card holder status. But these kids today! I'm up to my neck in Generation Y. When my managers abruptly assigned me to a new team of internet media producers and marketers, I found myself cast as the grizzled old veteran of ten years among a posse of fresh-out-of-college fraternity and sorority siblings. I feel like some kind of corporate Jane Goodall, squatting in the cubicle jungle to learn their ways and become accepted by the alphas. Or maybe the Kappa Kappa Gammas.

My wife teaches the younger half of this generation. She gets a daily dose of Iowa's elite high schoolers. Oh, yes, and their parents. Right now, she's reading Generation Me, a critique of Millennials, which is mostly comprised of Generation Y. She throws me a sound bite or two from the book as she reads. What I remember are lots of selfs. "Self-entitlement" and "self-esteem" and "self-centered."

Then, I nod sagely and think, yes, that's what I see in my co-workers, and even when I take my little notebook and khakis out of the cubicle jungle and venture in to the microbrew jungle or maybe the coffe house jungle.

I observe intense fascination with newness, with pop-culture. And, more rarely, naive sense of wonder that, say, I ever watched Knight Rider before he was "The Hoff." It is the very behavior that we used to react against. That kind of un-ironic enthusiasm made you extremely un-cool in my cooler days. It invited mockery. It made me a jaded critic, ever seeking quality in art and experience and rarely finding it.

Our music brooded. We disdained superficial appearances. Celebrities were full of shit, ignored unless of course they also brooded. You had to keep it real, man. It was about independence and to hell with fighting for respect that would never come. Just do your own thing. It was personal, not political. Politics failed us; we mostly withdrew. Choose your own adventure, right? Maybe there was something from the 80s that made sense after all.

Ah, the 80s. Daily, Whitney Houston music drifts over the cubicle walls. My young co-worker streams her online 80s radio all day, delighting in its sweet, vibrant nonsense. Denise Williams and Peter goddam Cetera. This wasn't good when it was good.

As I understand it, the Generation Me authors count me among the Millennials, and even among Generation Y. I don't let it go to my head, you know? Something is different here. It's the first time in life I get to look "down" from experience at a new group that behaves very differently than my Gen X peers. I spent most of my time looking "up" at the Baby Boomers with a mix of envy and disdain. (Hey, at least we mostly agree on rock 'n roll.)

Still, for all the critiques, it's far from all bad. Obviously, I think my jaded Generation X proclivities set me against appreciating the younger set.

That enthusiasm, I will say, is infectious. I admit it, earnestly. I'm envious. I wish I could get half as excited about reality TV and politics. Mostly, I see garbage and pay too much for satellite TV and flipping channels past Dancing with the Stars. Through that Gen X lens, I can't see anything but a transparent phony in Barack Obama. Meanwhile, my cubicle clan is gaga over the guy. He says all the right things! He makes us feel good again.

Again? You punks haven't felt good politically since before you could drink beer!

Well, you know how it goes. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth.

Yes, young woman, too.


Iowa boy living, working, and writing ... in that order.

more about matt snyder


tracey kelley
9.15.08 @ 12:39p

I like how the ad that appears to others viewing this page (no ads if you're Premium IM!) is "Renegade Network Marketer" - seems appropriate, yes?

I've always distained the labeling of generations. Baby Boomers, always seeking individuality, took it to the extreme in the 80s to justify their existance. Now, it's everywhere. And we're all just supposed to play along. I think it takes a healthy dose of cynical wonder to tolerate it all.

sandra thompson
9.19.08 @ 9:09a

If you think Barack Obama is a transparent phony don't expect me to respect anything else you have to say.

matt snyder
9.19.08 @ 9:55a

Sandra, don't feel too bad. I can't think of a single politician who isn't a damn phony. I just don't get all the insistence that somehow Obama rises above all that. I'm not buying it.

Thanks for reading.

daniel castro
9.22.08 @ 2:23p

Peter goddamn Cetera, indeed.

I'm 24 and if you think we're bad, next gen (Generation OMGWTFLOL) will be even worse.

robert melos
9.23.08 @ 2:33a

Politics is all the same. Lies, and the liars who tell them. I vote for whomever supports my interests, or comes closest to them. Alas, no republican and only afew democrats come close to my interests. I'm part of the "Me" generation, and it's still all about me. Personally I think Gen OMGWTFLOL will be annoyingly funny to deal with. Occasionally they will need to be smacked down, but in general we'll have fewer wars because they will be too busy ROFLAO over everything.

daniel castro
9.23.08 @ 12:30p

I think the only real war will be between which countries get to be on the U.S. and China's top 8 on myspacebookofdoomydoom.

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