Coca-Cola was an everyday thing and we ate McDonald’s twice a week. We hadn’t heard of gluten and didn’t eat organic; we weren’t green; we weren’t medicated. We fought child-killer Freddy Krueger in video games and kept his poster on our bedroom walls. Computers were a school-only thing, thirty minutes, twice a week. We were the last in the era where staying indoors was a punishment, and when making friends meant going outside.
The Millennial, they called us: the last generation that met without cynicism the cliché, “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” The grownups told us we’d change the world, that’d we’d make it a better place. And we bore the burden happily.
The freedom afforded to the grownup Millennial unshackled us to raze the walls between silent majorities through social media, giving voice to millions, and dragging our parents kicking and screaming into an addictive second life of digital predators, free music, and crushing insecurity.
As we aged and walked curiously into the open arms of the internet, we moved less, ate more, and blamed our diet. We lamented about getting fat and demanded the replacement of the unhealthy foods of our youth with something “better.” Better for us. Better for the environment. And what’d we get? Dollar-menu rations for the poor and whole foods for the wealthy — frailties we hate but implicitly insist on keeping. We put iPads in the hands of toddlers and lost ourselves to our phones. We correlated social vitality to venue check-ins and pictures online. With our technological prowess we shed light on human indignities worldwide and fueled them on our own, empowering the online anonymous with our most precious information.
Our hipsters ushered in the age of latte-toting, Apple-carrying subversion, but even they weren’t enough. Hipsters became too mainstream, too retro-trite, and were usurped by the Normcore. In the breakneck-pace world of the Millennial, we have time and interest for only the extreme, to such an extent that moderation itself is a social taboo; Normcore is suddenly “it.”
We are the world’s most liberal, most cultured generation, kept informed by Wikipedia and Jon Stewart, with an attention span as long as a “Top 10 Pictures Sears Doesn’t Want You to See” piece on BuzzFeed.
We are the hyper-selfied generation of paradox, cultural non sequitur, and ingenuity.
Why, after dredging through a Dewey Decimal System, cursive-learnt, inkjet world would we end up here?
Blame it on what we were told in the classroom, by our parents, and on TV — that we could be anything we wanted to be. And what would you expect from children given skeleton keys to the future in their Tooth Fairy years?
Answer: everything exciting, nothing boring. A world of extremes.
The optimism and encouragement that reared the Millennial in the ‘90s unleashed explosive creativity. Coupled with a Click Now, On Demand, instant gratification culture, our decisions are often thoughtlessly immediate — for the good and the bad.
But said optimism and encouragement evades our next in line, Gen Z, of whose youth we’re already envious. Gen Z is now only several years away from trend-setting dominance. Born amid the ashes of 9/11, the pains of financial devastation and cyber-bullying, and ignorant to a pre-internet world, Gen Z, perhaps more than any generation before it, has the most comprehensive big-picture view of the world. They are the first generation to grow up with the memories of civilization’s harshest realities beset against infinite and immediate knowledge. Gen Z very well may steward us as cynically as the Millennial did innocently, or become history’s most measured, thoughtful generation.
Until then, you’ll have to live with the generation who, in addition to introducing you to Facebook, readied the world for Caitlyn Jenner and equal marriage, reimagined the internet into a forum for cause, and laid the groundwork for boundless social activism.