Gen Y Don't You Just Shut Up?


With World Youth Day finally over, it’s time to pause and ask ourselves why we give young people so much attention. The fact is, every day is world youth day. And there has never been a younger, more naïve and inexperienced collective of youth than Gen Y.

Apparently Gen Y are much like baby boomers and are referred to as "echo boomers". Not because they’re crazy, misunderstood dreamers, but because they’re revolutionaries, striving to change the world. Seriously.

I think there is a subtle distinction between Gen Y and the Boomers: Baby Boomers actually stood for stuff, had beliefs, dropped out and shook things up. No doubt there is an element of echoing in Gen Y, but more of the vacant, drafty kind than anything that actually resonates.

Many accuse Gen Y of consuming at an unparalleled rate. This would seem very unlike the Boomers in the 1960s. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing – and you can’t really blame them when they grew up in the age of John Howard’s annual tax cuts and a booming economy. But unfortunately much of this extra cash is being spent on five lifestyle "pillars". They are: entertainment ($151 per week), fashion ($55), sport ($25), travel ($24) and music ($11).

Gen Y is stereotyped as living in a world full of white noise, the static of incessant, clicking, twittering and txting. These young impressionable minds are drowning in the sound of this pervasive buzz, with little respite for reflection or deeper thought. Meanwhile, Google has killed off any understanding of sub-text. Sound nasty? Employers are at a loss to deal with "self-entitled and whiney" Gen Y employees who won’t use old-world technology such as email, who find rostered start times personally offensive and see having more than 10 jobs before they are 30 as a rite of passage.

The mediascape is filled with analysis of a generation who psychoanalyse each other via the insight of Facebook status updates or cry for hours over the aptness or crassness of an ill-spelt txt msg. Apparently, Gen Y doesn’t read books published before 1999. They read the Wikipedia entry for pre-millennium publications.

Surely there is a deeper level of introspection going on out there? To be fair, the weight of being a millennial may be a greater weight than any weight ever weighed. I say this because I just read the insightful night thoughts of Ryan Paugh (pronounced "paw" or "paff" or "fluff"). Ryan is a Penn State grad (Journalism with a minor in Business) and co-founder of Brazen Careerist, which sounds like a deceptively honest consultancy firm but in reality is a convenient hub for unbelievably amusing Gen Y quotes.

Ryan was "reflecting" on his current position in the world and asks, "Am I Still a Millennial?" In short he suspects he is, although Ryan says he is more mature than he was a year ago. Genius. How could he possibly know this? Well Ryan explains with four points: "I’m not as idealistic; I’m more skeptical; I’m not as bold," and (my favourite), "I’m more myself than I’ve ever been".

Ryan is all too familiar with the slings and arrows Gen Y endures, such as "narcissistic", "politically impotent" and "consumer obsessed". So Ryan has a new motto when tempted to respond to such hurtful accusations: "Stay cool. Backlash is always going to suck, but as soon as I give into the hate I lose my leverage as a reputable voice." I know what Ryan means and it terrifies me. At the very least it proves McKinsey & Co have truly conquered the world.

In 2006 another Ryan – Ryan Heath – published the succinct, Please Just F*ck Off, It’s Our Turn Now – demanding older generations make way for an enlightened Gen Y which was ready to change Australia. Unfortunately, after working on the Kevin07 election campaign, Mr Heath f*cked off to Belgium, so it’s lucky no one took him up on his request.

Why so angry? In the past 10 years, the media, entertainment and political landscape has changed and it’s all Gen Y’s fault. The majority of consumer products and infotainment are marketed towards Gen Y. Media content is dictated by the 16-25 year-old demographic and it has been completely dumbed down.

When the media isn’t producing content for Gen Y, it’s pushing content about Gen Y: What makes them tick? How to get their attention? What Gen Y really wants. What’s our favourite infantile celebrity up to this week. This is the generation that talks like it invented the exclamation mark. The attention spans of Gen Y-ers are now being classified in categories according to species of goldfish. They don’t know what they want and we should all stop trying to figure it out.

Unfortunately there is no Planet Y, only Planet Us. For the sake of Gen Z, Gen 0 and Gen Mars something needs to be done and this incoherent buzzing needs to stop. I’m not completely sure what the answer is but it does include an internet tax, conscription and bucket loads of harden the f*ck up.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.