Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Call to Arms

First off, this is a brilliantly wicked article - I nearly spit out my coffee in a few instances. Lanham's wit is commendable - Oscar Wilde would be proud. It would appear that the Gen X vs. Gen Y (errr, Millenials) debate shows no sign of aging, or media indifference - it just keeps getting coverage.

Two issues come to mind here - one is the Facebook "fairy" mishap, while the other is perceptions and misperceptions of Generations X and Y. On the Facebook mishap - it's a risk we all need to recognize. If you're going to post personal photos with no self-censorship - and not apply "limited profile" options to any colleagues you're connected to on Facebook - then any fibs and lies you tell might catch up with you. He lied to his boss to play hooky (something we've all done) - but his boss saw the photos he had publicly posted - and he was busted. That's an inherent risk in taking our lives public, to any degree, on the web; end of story. (And as an aside, I have to wonder - how trusted is this guy that his boss decided to fact-check his story on Facebook? Had this guy skipped out on work multiple other times, drawing suspicion? But I digress...)

The Gen X and Gen Y discussion is the more debatable (and, with tongue-in-cheek, combative) of the two. I agree that there are some broad attitudinal and even stylistic/aesthetic differences between the two Generations - particularly if you're considering what an Xer looked like in the 90's (grunge) vs. now (hipster). But I believe most of these differences have been sensationalized by the media (Radar and Time magazine articles included). I'm a Gen Xer, but on the border - I could easily straddle both Generations and share some of the key defining attitudes and traits of each. I work closely with both Xers and Yers, and do feel some of the dissonance between the two in terms of expectations, sense of merit and demand for instant recognition and responsibility. But to tell you the truth, I wonder if some of the older Gen Xers bitching about the Gen Yers had similar expectations and sense of what was "theirs" and due to them when they were younger - expectations that are based more on youthful, naive ideals common to most people growing up with opportunities and access to resources - and less on a unique insight into a generation magnified and sensationalized by the media.

I wonder if these arguably generational differences in expectations and entitlement have more to do with socio-economic class and the national economic climate. I'd guess that money - and the resources you're used to having access to -bear a stronger impact on what we think we can accomplish and deserve access to, than does the exact Generation we were born into. If you were born with resources and opportunities that money can buy (like a superior education or travel, for instance), chances are you might take those for granted and expect that they will always be at your disposal. More tellingly - does a Gen Yer from a higher-income family have the same set of expectations and sense of merit in the workplace than a Gen Yer from a middle or lower-income background? I'd also be interested to see the difference in household income/family wealth between a 21-year-old in 1993 and one in 2008. Just how much did that 21 year old have to take for granted then, vs. a 21-year old today?

I reserve some skepticism for anything that's hyped by the media - which is probably very characteristic of my Gen X-born self. The glorification of the differences between Gen X and Gen Y is included in that assessment. And so is anything depicted in "The Hills".