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talking about my generation: why is Gen Y so maligned?


The generation gap has always been a topical issue. Just what do the older generation do when things begin to change? Will they embrace a new era of modern inventions and ways of life, or will they refuse and forever live in the past? And how do young people perpetuate this change?

There have been many instances of the generation gap causing problems for the functional progression of society – the older generation having to cope with immense change as the world regenerates. This can be seen from the “Roaring ‘20s”, through to the punk rock rebellion of the 1970s, and through again to today’s modern, technologically advanced society.

The issue here isn’t so much that different generations exist. I believe the manner in which each generation is treated is the key to unlocking the tension underlying a rapidly changing world running parallel with an equally rapidly ageing population.

We now have three generations living simultaneously. Their nicknames are no stranger to us: the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. We are virtually bombarded with references to these names through the news, print media and even a (slightly pointless) game show centred around them that aired briefly on Channel Ten. Yet let’s briefly remind ourselves about each generation, shall we?

The Baby Boomers: part of the post-war baby boom; born between 1946 and 1964.

Stereotypes: they’re your parents. They work, or worked hard. They’re the older people living and functioning in society today. They were maybe hippies once, and they tend to still believe in traditional values.

Generation X: those born between the early ‘60s and the early ‘80s.

Stereotypes: they founded the idea of a “counter culture”. They’re a bit miserable and sceptical, as they had to go live through the crappy circumstances of a world in recession, and through many world-changing events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and Chernobyl.

Generation Y: or the “Millennial Generation”; born roughly from the early ‘80s through to the ‘00s.

Stereotypes: young people. Tech-savvy. Spoilt. Believe in diversity and equality, and less so in traditional values.

So, now we’re all up to speed, or at least a little bit. Some exploration into these stereotypes is needed to get a fuller picture of each of these generations, and obviously, there will be some exceptions to each. But it’s how they are each portrayed by the media and other sources which is interesting; particularly to someone belonging smack bang in the middle of Generation Y. My generation tends to cop the majority of the criticism in the media, and it’s hard not to take it personally sometimes.

When one looks at what media feeds society about Generation Y, it’s easy to see why so many young people today begin to believe what is said about them. We have been accused of everything from victimisation, lack of communication, lack of morals, responsibilities, being spoilt, partying too hard and too often, illegal activity, drugs, alcohol, bad driving, unemployment and basically running riot in society. The majority of news reports concerning a young person under 25 years of age are about something they’ve done wrong, a petty crime or vandalism; or something the generation are seemingly getting wrong, like being addicted to our phones and to the Internet.

The Internet seems to be our biggest portrayed generational problem. The perception is that we’re not careful enough when it comes to our safety and even our reputation online. That we’re careless enough to dispatch private and personal information to strangers, and that we put too many degrading photos of ourselves for the world to see up on Facebook or Instagram. And, increasingly, these outlets also seem to broadcast the notion that any other form of communication is being abandoned by the younger generation – that we text more than we talk, and that we spend more time on Facebook than we do in the real world.

Certainly, I’m not denying that some of these are home truths for some Gen Y’ers. And maybe we need to do something about it, or else we run the risk of becoming an unhealthy, depressed and isolated generation.

But what about those of us who don’t conform to what is considered the “norm” of being a young person in 2013? There are some truly inspirational young people out there, and it’s a shame that they don’t get nearly as much media attention as the bratty or attention seeking ones.

It seems that mainstream media wants the majority to believe that Generation Y is hopeless, and that they should be worried about the future when we grow up and become their leaders. This seems to me to be an unfair misconception about the youth of today, when there are plenty of reasons for us to be excited about the future.

There have always been young people who are seemingly rebelling against a non-existent authority; and who give their age group a bad reputation. It’s just more obvious now that we live in a society in which information spreads much more rapidly than it ever did, so more and more people are aware of these so-called rebels.

The different generations have always been in conflict with each other due to the manner in which society treats them. This is not unique to the current generations; despite how demonised Generation Y seem to be in the media. The fact is, that the Baby Boomers were much maligned in their youth for being “useless hippies”; and now they are a “burden” upon our population as it gradually ages. The fact is that young people will most likely continue to be antagonised while young; more or less ignored whilst middle aged, and treated as a burden when older. It will be interesting to see how these generational gaps are played out as Generation Y grows up.

By Alexandra Van Schilt

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One thought on “talking about my generation: why is Gen Y so maligned?

  1. As a Gen Xer, I found it illuminating that you contrasted the many silly & contradictory statements made about Gen Y. They are in fact the same kinda of contradictory statements that were made about us – lazy (cos we didnt all manage to get work), desperate for instant gratification (because we took drugs), unrealistic (because we were activists) and pig headed (because we wouldn’t let up on what we believed in). I’m certain now that this is just a sort of youth dismissing formula cooked up during the 1950s, the decade that the term teenager was born, to trivialize the valid concerns raised by every successive post war Gen.

    I do have to take issue with the phrase above, about youths railing against “non existent authority”. Are you suggesting authority doesn’t exist? That’s either got to be a typo or else you’re being slightly delusional: hierarchies, privilege and authority are utterly entrenched in Western society and in light of all the rubbish wars and banking crises of late, I fail to see what is mindless or rebellious about fighting authority. Writing rebellion off as being merely rebellious, because it inconveniences you or you disagree, is just as trivializing as anything said by the mass media about Gen Y.

    One last thing: Gen Y has its flaws but I do respect it’s sense of equality. That’s a bonus, regardless of anything else that it’s done wrong.

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