College Writing I MWF 1:10 PM
September 14th, 2018
To Which Generation Do I Belong?
By Maggie Harlin
I arrived home from school last Thursday around 5pm, just as normal. As I roll around the corner into the living room, where we had recently placed a new, large screen television, I was aghast at the content displayed. My sister Abbey and her friend Triniti (who is over often enough that we consider she lives here, and henceforth will be referred to as “my sisters”) were watching a very ugly young man open a box full of construction materials, painted bright red in a poor attempt to mimic blood. I later found out that they were searching for “Dark Web Mystery Box” and watching folks open boxes of the unknown, purchased from a place ridden with body parts and drug deals, for which they had paid ten-thousand dollars or more.
For anyone to have ten grand to throw around seemed absurd to me, let alone caring so little about it that they would spend it on a box full of who-knows-what from the internet. There were so many better places that money could have been (metaphorically speaking) “thrown away.” He could have given it to charity, to those in need, he could have even lived for two years on that money without needing anymore; yet instead it went to a bad idea to be put on YouTube. For something that expensive, the attempt at making it look like a crime scene was still pitiful. For ten-thousand dollars they definitely could have splurged and bought fake blood instead of bright red craft paint. All absurdities aside, it made me realize just how different what I think of as a worthwhile video and what they think of as a worthwhile video is very, very, very, different. I wanted to know why our opinions on this were so very different, when my sisters and I have fun watching movies and looking up jokes together all the time. After realizing that the marketing scheme of YouTube is hyperpersonalised, in that without having a constant stream of prefiltered content thrown at our faces like television and radio, it is all up to choices made by the viewer, and then ads are tailored to the overlapping of demographics what fit that out of billions of videos. In short, a slight change in demographic, such as age, would change the suggested selection of videos entirely. We watch different videos because we are in different generations.
In today's day and age, generations seem to be in an almost never ending war of blaming each other for their own problems. Was it the Baby Boomer's fault the economy fell apart with age? Did the Millenials really kill the diamond industry by eating too many avocados on toast? Though the blame game will always continue, some of us feel left out. Being the exception to blame may seem a blessing, some also see it as a curse. Why are we not defined? Shall we never fit in? For those of us born between the years 1995 and 2000, this is always the case. We are all still too young to be taking or refusing diamond rings, but too old to understand the appeal of making slime. In this essay, I will find ways to define the unique cultural experiences of my generation, and what separates us from those older and younger. Put simply, what makes us, us.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the Government “Does not define the different generations. The only generation we do define is Baby Boomers, and that year bracket is between 1946 and 1964.” If even the Census Bureau, which exists solely as a survey of the people, cannot define the separations of generations, then who else has the right? Speaking with The Atlantic, Columbia University Sociology Professor Tom DiPrete said what we had all been thinking: “The boundaries end up getting drawn, to some extent, by the media,” he continued “the extent to which people accept them or not varies by the generation.” The reason the years of the baby boomers are so well defined is that the baby boom the moniker comes from happened between the end of World War II and the development of nuclear weapons that led into the Cold War. According to Mr. DiPrete, “History isn't always so punctual.”
If the media is what defines the years of generations, maybe the media is what best describes them, too. Before I delve any further, I'd like to loosely define some terms. As the number one source for vague and loose information, Wikipedia lists the birth years of recent North American generations as:
• “The Generation of 1914” or “Lost Generation” (those that fought in World War I): 1883-1900
• “The G.I. Generation,” (those that fought in World War II): 1901-1924
• “The Silent Generation” or “The Lucky Few” (too young for WWII but later fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars): 1925-1940s
• The Baby Boomers (as defined above): 1946-1964
• “Generation X,”: mid-1960s, (for our purposes 1965) - 1981
• “Millennials,” sometimes, “Generation Y,” “1980s- mid 1990s” (this is highly debated)
• “Generation Z” or more recently,“The iGeneration,”: (the first generation to grow up with personal computers) this is where both my personal opinion and the opinion of the greater masses stray from Wikipedia's answer; they list this as “mid 1990s onward,” whereas most sources list, and the majority of the folks included in this generation agree, includes anyone born After 2000.
From this list, we can infer that no generation from 1966 until 2001 has any solid, finite description. Funny enough, that same timeframe is when television, and mass media in general, rose to prevalence. I believe there is a strong connection. We were raised in a world where the moving pictures were more realistic than the constant threat of war. From a legal standpoint, this seems reasonable, as “before the end of World War II,” sounds much better in formal and international instances than, “before the end of The Beverly Hillbillies,” however, to those defined by it, this is a perfectly suitable description. Unlike generations before, the media we consumed has influenced us more than anything. According to the theory of “you are what you eat,” this means the media we consume is also what defines us.
Some of these descriptions fit quite a large group of people: Generation X could easily be painted with a broad stroke of the moniker “The Brady Bunch Generation,” after the comedy television programme that continued from 1969 up until 1990 (under a few different names). They were raised in a world where television sets had become a big, bulky, staple in most families evenings. What was aired on the TV sets of the times was very family friendly, to the point where parents had to sleep in separate beds. This time period also brought the time of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's moon landing, and the public's constant attention on the so called “space race.” This did not last long, which is why there is another space left in between for what is known as a “micro-generation,” a span of about five years where the world had changed so much that children who were brought up in this time frame had an experience uniquely their own compared to those before or after. The micro-generation in question, born 1975-1981, were raised in a time after we gave up on space, as well as decency in television programming, but before it came to be regulated.
The Millenials are the kids of the 1990s. They had CatDog, Hey Arnold, Roundhouse; all the good Nickelodeon television programs, all of my favourite movies. They're associated with Fruit Gushers and Dunkaroos, Beanie Babies and Tamagotchis, I am fairly certain most of these are still in my house right now! (The exception is the dunkaroos, my mom hated them because they are full of sugar and I am fairly certain they are discontinued now anyways.) These were all things I loved and I grew up with, was this not the generation for me?
Nowadays, the Millenials are associated with avocado toast and tipping more than the bill for food. Do I have any knowledge of these things? No. And that is where my relation to them ends.
There was one last micro-generation, at the tail end of the 90s, and that, that is where I belong. We were raised at the advent of home internet, and we were the first children taught how to use it in school. Another product we were the target audience of was growing right under our feet: YouTube. The video sharing service, now used for equal amounts educational content, jokes, crude video gamers, and perverted garbage. When YouTube began, it seemed its main focus was in the first two categories. The 1995-2000 Generation were between the ages of 7-12 at the advent of the site in 2007, and we were the key audience they were focused on. During my sophomore year of high school, YouTube became more prevalent in my life than ever before. My favourite teacher, Mr. Ramirez, would show us a video via the platform before almost every class; whether it was that days news, or never ending episodes of John Green's Crash Course History, we were always both informed and entertained: learning was fun again, and moreover, this was the media most effecting us- our generation was most influenced by the sheer amount of time spent on YouTube. We here find a moniker: The Internet Generation. That is who we are.
Now, that's not to say other generations don't use the internet; as I said before, my sisters view very different videos than I would choose. My mother uses YouTube to search up videos on how to fix and improve the filtration system for our swimming pool (which I find unbelievably dull), and when I told my father I was writing this paper, without even asking, he shouted, “I like watching bikini fails,” which now show up on the big screen in our living room every time we open YouTube, to the disenjoyment of everyone else. I, however, choose what content I view more discernely: whomever uploaded that video is making money, and I'd rather not have that money go to some undeserving company, rather than influential individuals who actually have passion for what they make. This exact reasoning brings back even more sophomore year memories.
Friends would often send me one-off videos of jokes, the kind no one actually cared where it came from, but there was one kind of video we talked about and would go back to over and over again: Buzzfeed's “guys try,” later rebranded as, “The Try Guys.” We would watch these videos to no end. Guys trying makeup tutorials, guys trying strange foreign snack foods, it never ended. We would have discussions in class about which Try Guy was most like us; I have a vivid memory of hiding on the back side of a set for a play, shortly after having my heart broken, turning back to the Try Guys for a laugh. This was what everyone my age was watching. This is what we enjoyed. Then Buzzfeed was ousted for being the monster it is. The company was copyrighting their producers names and faces and not allowing them to make any projects of their own. They became the height of “Fake News” scandals. This was why it all ended after sophomore year. You could not support a brand like that and still be socially accepted. It was at this height of Buzzfeed's worst, on June 16th of 2018, that the Try Guys officially split from Buzzfeed and formed their own independent production company. They were not the first to split, as many others from the company had already quit and fought to reclaim their own names and faces. This meant that it was okay to watch their videos again. The ad revenue is going to support more creative outlets, rather than a CEO's pockets.
Shortly after the split, all my friends were talking about and sharing their videos again. My parents nor anyone older understood; my sisters nor anyone younger understood. This was a humongous cultural event that only my generation experienced. The rise and fall of Buzzfeed was something unique and only ours; what we silently experienced without anyone else paying attention. The 1995-2000 Generation had gained even more of a unique identity, and I could not be happier than to be a part of it.
Bump, Philip. “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 4 Oct. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/. Accessed 09/14/2018, 13:30
“Generation.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Sept. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation. Accessed 09/14/2018, 17:00
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