Excuse Me, What Did You Call Us?
By Alexandra Smyth
“Echo Boomers,” “Generation Y,” “Millenials.” Call us what you will. It seems to me that my generation is seen by the generations before us as nothing but a mindless group of consumers who will buy whatever it is they advertise to us. We’re seen as a micromanaged, over-stimulated, spoiled lot of kids. I have to say, as a member of the “Echo Boomers,” I’m more than a bit offended. Sure, there is some truth to these perceptions, but is it really fair to generalize us that much? I don’t think so.
In the CBS 60 Minutes segment on “Echo Boomers,” a bunch of generalized facts about “Generation Y” are spouted at the viewer. We spend $170 billion a year. We have been “very heavily programmed.” Apparently, with us “convention is winning out over individualism, and values are very traditional.” Excuse me? My generation, conventional? My generation, traditional? Call me crazy, but these are the last words that I would use to describe my generation. Maybe we’re not talking about the same generation?
Perhaps my peers and I are a fluke. I can’t say any of us are “conventional” or “traditional.” We are a group of people that as a whole, are far more accepting of diversity than previous generations. Whereas some baby boomers balk at the idea of interracial dating, our generation not only openly does it, but also accepts it as something normal. We are one of the first generations in which many of our gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered peers feel comfortable in being open about their sexual orientation. Are those values “conventional” or “traditional?” I think not.
The segment goes on to say that rules seem to have replaced rebellion in our generation. Perhaps we are not rebelling in the same ways that our parents did, but in our own ways, we are rebelling. I can think of many people I know who are engaged in their own acts of rebellion. Take my Vegan friend, Jackie. She is rebelling against the animal products industry by not consuming their products. Jackie disagrees with the idea of consuming animals or products that harm animals, and she also takes issue with the wastefulness of the industry.
My friend Brian is open about the fact that he is gay. We are consumers of rap music, which is often looked down upon by older generations. We are drawn to “offensive” shows such as “South Park” and “Family Guy.” These television shows go out of their way to point out the inequalities and wrongdoings of our society. If you want to look at it superficially, we are the generation of piercings and tattoos, multi-colored hair.
It’s true that many of my peers feed into our consumer-driven society. It’s true that there are many wannabe Paris Hiltons, or Ashton Kutchers. There are members of my generation who just want to do whatever is considered “cool.” But for every five wannabe Parises or Ashtons, there is a person who simply wants to be him or herself. People who want to explore their own interests and to truly find out who they are, not who advertisers encourage them to be.
I consider myself to be one of these individuals and take personal offense that I am lumped in with the rest of my peers as a traditionalist who just does what they are told. I wasn’t micromanaged as a kid. I was allowed to use my imagination and I can come up with ways to entertain myself if need be. I don’t want to be Paris Hilton and I could give a damn about what all of the youth-driven industries are trying to push my way.
But then again, every generation takes issue with the next generation’s youth culture. The parents of the baby boomers disapproved of their long hair and bell-bottoms, their anti-war protests and their rock and roll music. Baby boomers see us as spoiled, consumer driven brats. When my generation starts to have children, we’ll find problems with their youth culture. It’s a cycle.
All generations rebel against the previous generation – that’s what the baby boomers don’t seem to be getting. But you know what’s the funniest part about all of this? The free-spirited, anti-establishment baby boomers are the ones doing all the research on us, the ones selling everything to us. How ironic.