Echo Boomers Refuse To Be Stereotyped
By Therese Whelan
What group spends $170 million a year and makes up a third of the U.S. population? Echo boomers, that’s who. There are many names for the generation born between the years 1982 and 1995: “echo boomers,” “Generation Y” or “millennials,” and there are about 80 million of us.
Echo boomers are the most studied generation ever. We grew up in a world filled with computers and the Internet. Echo boomers affect movies, fashion, television, magazines, school systems and so much more. We are unpredictable and refuse to accept generalizations.
The CBS 60 Minutes report on echo boomers described our generation as “overachieving, over-managed,” and “very pressured.” Most of this pressure seems to come from the parents of echo bombers, known as baby boomers. “My parents expect me to go college and at least graduate school, because they did,” says Greg Selmi, 19. He describes his parents, who between them have law degrees, doctorates and masters, as “educationaholics.”
Even for the youngest echo boomers, expectations are high. Amelia Whelan, 13, feels that parents and teachers put pressure on students not only to get good grades but to be involved in after school activities as well. She plays four sports and is involved in students clubs. Add that to homework and, “Things get pretty crowded,” says Whelan.
According to 60 Minutes, we are a generation concerned less about individualism, and more about fitting in with a crowd. However, this generation is the most diverse generation ever: 35 percent who are non-white. Yes, we think everyone should “be part of the community” but that does not mean we lack individualism. It means we’re revolutionary. We do not practice “follower-ship” as historian Neil Howe suggests in the segment.
The trends most people recognize in echo boomers are their buying habits. Almost everyone wants a cell phone and iPod, and when something’s in fashion, echo boomers know first. “We’ve grown up with the media trying to sell us things,” says Selmi.
Advertisers target echo boomers more than any other demographic. Whelan too can recognize how the advertising industry targets her. She thinks by seeing multiple ads for cell phones and other technology gadgets, the desire to buy gets “engrained in her brain.”
And, for echo boomers is money important in today’s society?
“Hell yeah,” says Selmi.
More and more, students are taking the advice they learned in economics class instead of their parent’s money. Selmi described two friends age 19 and 20 who made over a million dollars in three years by investing in Google. How did the teens learn about finances? According to Selmi, “They read up on it online and did it themselves on E-Trade.”
However, one of the greatest factors in the life of an echo boomer is technology. Whelan has never known a world where cell phones and the Internet did not exist. She prefers her computer to television and instant messaging instead of phone conversation.
“When you talk to someone in person they’re can be awkward pauses. Online it’s easy to communicate and make new friends,” Says Whelan. She thinks her generation is unique because they are more connected than any previous one. Selmi too would rather be on his computer than watch television. But he doesn’t think it will be obsolete in the future. What’s next? “3-D TV” he predicts. Chances are an echo boomer will perfect it.
Dr. Mel Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina said in the 60 Minutes report that parents of echo boomers have shaped them more than technology. “This is a generation that has long aimed to please. They’ve wanted to please their parents, their friends, their teachers, their college admissions officers.”
But the real people this generation wants to please are themselves. Levine believes echo boomers “can’t think long-range. Everything has to be immediate.” He believes this generation is naïve and will change as they grow. Naïve, no. But we definitely will change as we grow.
Selmi thinks his generation is unique because of the changes that are going on in the world right now. “We’ve experienced a lot of world changing events, from multiple wars, terrorism attacks, global warming.” And the responsibility to change and maintain the world will fall on the echo boomers whether they want it or not. “Sometimes I just think, shit what are we supposed to do with this?”
And, what most people who study echo boomers forget to mention are the changes we’ve already made for the better. Violent crime among teenagers is down 70 percent. So are the rate of teen pregnancy and the use of tobacco and alcohol. Echo boomers know they are being studied, but refuse to play into the stereotypes. They’re smart, technologically and financially savvy, ambitious and are the future leaders of the world.