Gen Y Observations From Someone Actually Part Of The Generation

image credit:  pbo31

It seems like every other week, we see articles, blog posts and other observations about Gen Y.  And usually, they are written by people who aren’t even a part of the generation.  It always makes me cringe to read these, especially when they try and offer “advice” for managing people in my demographic.

As I have spent essentially my entire life watching/studying this demographic as an observer and participant, I thought I’d be able to give you some qualitative analysis that would be more interesting than what people outside of the age group can provide.  After all, do you really think a younger generation behaves in their true form around an older generation?

Here’s my observations that may run counter to what you read by those in older generations:

Digital natives are a myth

If you define digital natives as the group of people that grew up using technology, yes that exists and would be Gen Y.  However this is an altogether meaningless term, most of Gen Y is as inept with technology as the older generation.

I’ve spent as much time fixing systems/networks of people my own age as I have those who are older.  Growing up with technology and using it is not an indicator of ability to successfully manipulate it on anything more than a superficial level.  For the average person, age has nothing to do with literacy in using technology efficiently.  Fight me on this if you want, but being known as the IT geek I have helped more than a statistically relevant number of people with their computer/network issues and the truth is age is a meaningless factor in correctly using technology or using tech in creative ways for business solutions.

Going further – yes, most of Gen Y grew up using the social web and followed it along from Prodigy/AOL to Facebook and MySpace.  But these networks require no special skills to use.  In fact anyone can use them, which is why they are so popular.  The people that go further and develop their own web properties or build an audience for influence, attention or monetization has nothing to do with age, and if you look across the board it is made up people that span demographics.  I notice nothing special in particular with people in Gen Y on the whole with digital technology compared to any generation.  It depends more on those passionate enough and interested enough to learn how to use the tools effectively than age.  Geeks (of any age) are the new influencers and programming is the new literacy.

Gen Y is no lazier than any other generation

A lot of people love to label Gen Y as “lazy.”  This is nonsense, as there are lazy people across demographics.  Most humans across generations, especially in America, squander a majority of free time daily with mindless entertainment.  This is not a generational issue, this is a cultural issue.  In my view, nearly everyone in our country suffers from mental sloth and it can’t be pigeon-holed to one generation.  Nearly everyone watches TV in their free time…enough said.

Generation Y is no more or less intelligent than any other living generation

Again, I see no difference between the intelligence levels of those in other generations and Gen Y.  True intelligence, creativity and motivation for life is rare across demographics.  I’ve read countless great books, listened to countless amazing artists and read plenty of thought provoking blogs and age is not a factor for defining those talented and motivated enough to create these things.  Our species doesn’t evolve fast enough for there to be statistically any significant difference in raw intelligence levels between any of the generations that are currently alive.  Anyone declaring Gen Y the dumbest generation is being sensationalist for the sake of getting attention and generating controversy.

Gen Y is more connected than previous generations

An overwhelming majority of Gen Y does use social networking.  As I have written previously, Facebook and MySpace are the modern AOL and Prodigy.  Gen Y has been connected from a young age and continues to stay connected.  We’re friends with all our old high school and college friends on Facebook and able to follow their progress throughout life.  This is something altogether new to society – a constant connectivity with those from our past.

Gen Y on the whole is just as open to manipulation as previous generations when it comes to religion

Religion appears to have infected another generation, even though 93 percent of NAS scientists do not profess a belief in God (72.2 percent disbelief, 20.8 agnostic).  However, thanks to the web, freedom of information and vocal intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, science and logic are beginning to spread into the population.  Gen Y has also grown up witnessing the negativity, death and destruction caused by religion – perhaps this will lead to less of Gen Y passing it on to their children.  Future civilizations of our planet will look back at our religious beliefs as quaint and at a detriment to science, truth, logic and progress (a bit of opinion:  religion is a relic of a pre-science civilization).  Clearly religion is one of the best examples of an ideavirus, and it is worthwhile to study the marketing lessons to learn from religion.

Generation Y marks the death of the mass-scale celebrity/influencer

Something the web and tools like blogs, YouTube, Facebook, etc. have enabled is the ability for us to publicly document our own lives.  And with this ability, we have realized rather quickly it is more interesting to follow the lives of people we actually know than nebulous celebrities.  This is creating a long tail of attention for people spread amongst the masses, creating many micro-celebrities among peer groups and niches, spreading the power of influence and attention across society.

Gen Y is colorblind, race blind and open to all lifestyle choices

On the whole, Gen Y doesn’t segregate human beings the way previous generations do.  We don’t view the world in races or colors and we don’t judge people based on lifestyle choices and try and tell them what they can and cannot do.  Despite the backwards decisions of our current society, in the not-so-distant future when everyone is given the same set of rights, we will look back on today the same way we currently look back at a generation which gave people rights based purely on color.

Gen Y doesn’t trust government

Rightfully so, Gen Y doesn’t trust government – we have grown up witnessing repeated failures by an obviously broken system.  It is clear the people in power are propping up old models, hindering innovation with broken patent systems and litigation, and easily manipulated by lobbyists.  It will be interesting to see if when Gen Y is in power they do things differently than the failures of the previous generations.

Gen Y is numb to mass advertising

We grew up in a world with a constant onslaught of advertising and media messages.  We’ve simply learned to tune them out and don’t buy into messages that come directly from companies we don’t trust and that haven’t built a relationship with us.  Permission marketing, on the other hard, works wonderfully.

Creative Gen Y’ers enjoy vibrant, forward-thinking music/art culture

But it isn’t in the mainstream eye.  I have heard more amazing music created by people in my generation than anything the world has witnessed (imo).  But just like in previous years the popular artists of today are cheesy, trite and boring choices.  Just because it isn’t on a major label or isn’t inside theaters doesn’t mean it isn’t far more innovative art.  Go listen to Ulrich Schnauss, go listen to Autechre, go listen to Sound Tribe Sector 9.  It’s unlike anything you’ve heard, and it’s the next generation of art music, the music creative people in our generation enjoy.  Since when does popular culture have taste in music anyway?


These are  observations I’ve formed from viewing the world from what I believe is a neutral lens, one shaped by logic and not manipulated by any single person or belief system.   Rather, I take a hybrid approach to viewing the world by studying facts, mixing in experience, being a well-read individual, and in my free time being a student of sociology and psychology.

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