Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Under a Microscope

Being part of my generation, I've seen and read a few articles and blog posts about us and what others seem to perceive. Most of it is hardly positive. The other night, a page on Facebook I follow posted a viral video of a young woman apologizing for our existence. Hence my decision to write what I think. By the way, I didn't watch the video. I've seen enough petulant stuff in the media to understand the attitude and topic of what the video obviously talks about, and the brief explanation was enough.

Instead of merely listing what's wrong and what I think is right or wrong, at least right away, I'm going to be simple and say this: I believe every generation has the same attitudes and personalities, the same strengths and weaknesses. The only reason those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s are getting the most observed flack about everything is because we're the first generation to live in the digital age where interconnectivity is rich and fully apart of our lives, and we therefore have social media to keep us highly aware of all of this.

There's also the fact that we are the first generation to use smartphones and computer-based relationships. We have such a high wealth of information at our hands. You don't have to go to the library to research a topic in a book or on microfilm, you can just plug into a network and use Wikipedia or countless other online resources; you don't have to phone your friend or knock on his door, you can simply text him or look on your Facebook newsfeed and get information from all your friends immediately. This unfortunately means you get a ridiculous overload of information as kids take selfies non-stop and people track each other on apps, and we come off as self-absorbed narcissistic brainiacs who know a lot about nothing at all. I doubt knowing Canadian Daniel Lanois produced Martha and the Muffins, Peter Gabriel, U2, and Robbie Robertson will get you very far when it comes to useful knowledge.

We are also coming of age at an inopportune time, and this isn't an excuse. A lot of successful people, aside from brains or courage or determination, happened to come along at a very good time. A very interesting book by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, discusses this. Computer software pioneers like Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, etc. all happened to come of age in the mid-70s when computer software development was just picking up. There was a developing market for what they were born to do, and they came at the perfect time. For us, though, in an economic sense, we have the period of time after the Great Recession. Things are as slow as ever.

Personally, I am not going to apologize for anything, whether it's existing (which makes no sense) or being part of this young generation. It's the Internet and this world of extreme interconnectivity, this environment of hyper information overload, that's slapping us in the face with all of these complaints and opinions and analysis of us as a group. We're under a microscope. There isn't a parent in any previous generation who felt their kids or "today's kids" are as 'tough' or smart or anything else ideal that they envisioned.

Of course, like any other generation, there are the functionally incapable ones, the kids who sit doing nothing for themselves because the online world or their parents will do it for them, the lazy ones and the whiny ones. With us it's perhaps more pronounced - I won't deny that all of those so opinionated are probably right in a sense. It's not entirely our fault. Who raised them? What kind of parents decided to give their ten year old child a smartphone? Who decided video games and Facebook were enough for a child? Who decided schools should have super-important "graduation" ceremonies for finishing senior kindergarten, and that the child is always right no matter what (for fear of hurting their self-esteem?) Team sports are all about smiling at each other and running around, with points for showing up and participating. There's little to no effort required. Connect two and two together. Maybe that's why we have a reason to complain. It makes absolutely no sense - nor is it right or fair - to raise a person a certain way, have it backfire or produce undesirable results, and therefore blame that person for being who he/she is. Or suggest or make him/her feel, ridiculously, that they should be apologetic for 'existing.' It's insane and despicable.

I'm what everyone calls a 'millennial.' I'm a nobody, at least until I've proven otherwise, with my own efforts. I don't expect a medal for landing a job and coming in on time; I don't need my hand held and I certainly have no fear of getting anxious at every little uncertainty. I'm not going to complain that I belong in a 'whiny' generation, because that's what people like to focus on and generalize, and I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon or be so hopelessly narrow-minded. I do believe that at this moment it is difficult to consider any career prospects, and that instead of worrying so much about student debt, we should be worrying about having a market and a need for new grads in the business world so that those who already have that debt can at least get a start somewhere and begin paying it off. After all, you can lower tuition fees and make school a reality for disadvantaged families, but they aren't going to be much better off if their degree, diploma or doctorate will only ever get them a job at McDonalds or Canadian Tire for the next X number of years. At least as long as the economy is slow, the market is dead, and whatever job opportunity that does exist only considers those with years of experience. And unpaid internships don't help anyone but the company; how often does an unpaid internship count to a different employer interviewing the candidate? I don't expect much.

We're overly examined because of the age and technology we live in, and it isn't helped with boneheaded alternative ideas to raising children, whether it's making them feel ultra-self-important, giving them a piece of technology and telling them to sit with it, or helicopter parenting to the point that grown-up child is incapable of surviving without his or her hand being held. The problem is the time we live in, parents, technology, and to a small extent, our own inner natures, all of which are unique, being negatively affected by the latter. No child in the 70s took pictures of his or her own food every day, or face, except for the odd artistic photographer planning an exhibition in some creative vein.

Oh, and we need to stop screaming at each other. Before you finish this and densely decide that I've been complaining about us as a generation, realize I've been avoiding the whole self-loathing shit in favor of a disconnected observation on external reasons that seem a lot more plain in sight to me. I'm not going to tell my peers to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or stop complaining, because putting someone down in their disadvantaged way by doing so is cruel. We need to help each other out and be positive, not disdainful or comparing.

Red Cloud

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