Generations are interesting.
Briefly, here are the Western World’s generations and a few facts about them.
- The Lost Generation – born 1883-1900
- These people fought in WWI
- They were pretty nomadic, without a sense of “home”
- They were oft skeptical of authority
- Many of the soldiers came back in pieces or with PTSD, or both
- They were opposed to Prohibition (their parents pushed for prohibition)
- These are the people that got wasted in speak easy bars and enjoyed hedonism in the 20s
- The Greatest Generation – born 1901-1924
- WWII Vets
- Grew up in Great Depression
- Big on personal responsibility
- Hard Workers
- Humble personalities
- These are the grandparents some of us had that hid money in mattresses and stock piled everything
- Silent Generation – born 1925-1945
- Korean and Vietnam War Vets
- Grew up to work hard and shut up
- Time Magazine called them unimaginative, withdrawn, unadventurous, and cautious
- These people were marred by war, and haunted by the wars of their parents
- Baby Boomers – born 1946-1964
- Literally, people came back from war, banged a lot, and we ended up with the Boomers
- Also called the Me Generation
- Boomers rejected war culture for industrial culture and achievement culture
- Big on Living to Work
- They literally went from being hippies to being like, okay we have to be adults now
- so if you know a boomer, they prolly have great stories they’ll never wanna tell you
- Generation X – born 1965-1984ish
- Like the boomers, gen x rejected their parents’ culture and made up their own
- Value diversity
- Value home and family life
- Big on a sense of community
- Also independent
- Pretty good with tech
- Millennials – born 1984ish-2001ish
- Gen Y, The Selfie Generation, Generation Me, Trophy Kids
- Very outwardly confident
- Detached from institutions
- More into networks of people
- Very social
- Raised to embrace diversity
- Less good with tech from a technical standpoint, but very dependent on user friendly tech
Now, usually in a chart like this you can trace yourself backwards… A Millennial’s parents will be Gen Xers, and their grandparents will be Boomers, etc etc etc.
My life is not like that.
I am a Millennial, which I HATED for years, because the Gen Xers and the Boomers analyzed Millennials and decided we were narcissistic spoiled children. It wasn’t until fairly recently that it’s been pointed out that this assessment was due to the analysis of Millennials coming from white upper class males. (Fun Fact: Most medical and social research is performed on white upper class men. That’s why it’s so new for us to recognize what a heart attack looks like in a woman, and what kinds of people really live in lower class neighborhoods, and even how people of different races differ in aspects of disease.) My mother is not Gen X. Not by a long shot. She’s a Boomer, born smack in the middle of the spectrum of years. As a result, I got a different kind of upbringing than other Millennials.
So, if Boomers raised Gen X, what happens when a Boomer raises a Gen Xer amongst Millennials?
Well you get an independent, tech savvy person with a lack of interest in family as much as a need for a good social network. You also get someone with a drive to do something with their lives, but no idea what it would be or how to start.
So that’s me. Most of my friends are not like this. I have a few with Boomer parents, but usually because they’re the youngest of three, and having siblings kind of changes the nature of being raised by a Boomer, since you’re also partially raised by your siblings. A lot goes into creating the ideal generation example. Lol.
Anyways, my point is that the Selfie Generation hates themselves, so let’s get to that.
So prior to the rise of social networks, no one gave a flying fuck if you liked yourself. Your parents didn’t tell you that all that mattered was your view of you, if you sucked at something no one tried to spare your feelings, and the concept of liking yourself was just something that might be in the back of your mind, but not something people talked about. The important thing is that OTHER people liked you.
Statistically, if you’re likable you will do better in life than someone who is not likable. I know that seems weird, because corporate big wigs are pricks, but they most likely didn’t start that way. Someone had to like them enough to give them a raise. Someone had to like them enough to give them a chance on a business loan. Someone had to like them enough to keep working for them long enough to help them build an empire. That’s how business works, because that’s how human nature works. From an evolutionary standpoint you’re not supposed to like most people, and because they’re unattractive or weak or sick or whatever. Our ancestors, the shitty god awful animals they were, would leave those people to die, or maybe kill them if it benefited them over just waiting for nature to do it.
So, as a human form of adaptation, we developed likable personalities. It’s hard to figure out that humans are idiots, and as such are easily conned. If you’re ugly, fat, poor, or have what’s considered an “uncommon trait” such as being non-hetero, non-cis, or non-comforming to current social standards…. you can totally con people into overlooking that with a good personality.
My favorite thing in the world is when people describe serial killers as likable people.
So, the question is how we got from Boomers, who are competitive as hell, to let’s give everyone a trophy “because everyone’s self esteem matters.”
That’s my theory.
So we developed the internet. A way to communicate with people all over the world. Then we developed the social network, as a better way to communicate with everyone. The thing about that… is now people were in our lives all the time. Where once a family would go get a portrait made, and go to dinner, and everyone would smile, knowing all the time that when they got home mom would dive head first into a bottle and dad would throw her down some stairs for it before running off with a neighbor to a sleazy motel for the night, as the kids stayed huddled in their rooms… Now we had the internet asking what you were doing. PICTURES OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.
So, you post about dinner. You post about the portrait. You post about how happy your family is. Then you look around and feel the weight of that lie. It’s immortalized in staged photos you took seven times to make sure everyone looked genuinely happy, and in the statuses of whatever happy event is happening right now. It grins back at you from the profile picture you see 20 times a day as you see what your friends’ lives look like.
One day is particularly bad. You gained weight, the boss yelled at you, your kids don’t have any interest in talking to you, you think your wife is cheating on you with your neighbor’s wife, and everything just feels like it’s slowly going to fall apart. Surely this is worthy of putting on social media. It’s just a low spot in your otherwise happy life, but you could use the moral support and everyone is always liking your pictures and stuff. So you post:
Having a bad day. 😦
What happens next is that no one supports you, and you’re accused of what we now call vague-booking. No one gives a damn about the troubles in your life.
So this goes on for a while… from AIM to Friendster to MySpace to Facebook and whatever you did after you realized Facebook is no longer the top social network (I got a Tumblr and a Google+, most people went the way of Twitter and Instagram). Gen Xers and Millennials learn to keep the bad shit to themselves, and since we ALL did that, we started to perceive that no one else in the world is experiencing the problems we have.
Yeah, we all have problems. Everyone has a shitty spouse, job, kids… we all have money problems and feel uncertain about the future… but no one advertises that. So from a user standpoint, you’re trying to keep up with people who are perpetually happy and whose lives are perfect.
It’s in all this chaos of feeling shitty about how shitty your life feels when everyone else’s seems amazing that we see the rise of the helicopter parents, and everyone getting a trophy at sports events, and social sensitivity. It’s here that we see the evolution of the concept of loving yourself. That’s not something we see at any other point in time.
(I’ve been writing this too long… so let’s get to the point.)
THE SELFIE GENERATION HATES THEMSELVES and it’s from that self-hatred that we can see all this “love yourself” business sprung up. It’s the sense of loneliness we get from trying to constantly look like life is great so we get plenty of likes on Instagram, and it’s the sense of remorse we feel about being the one that started a family early, or chose a career over putting effort into a love life from a young age. It’s the constant regret, the constant remorse of choices you didn’t make, of what could be you, but is instead someone you know.
Personally, I haven’t even really liked myself since 5th grade. I haven’t tried to, either. I would like myself if I were someone else. If I were the happily married friend I have that works for the government, if I were the independent friend with no real career but who travels all over the world on a whim, or if I were the cute stay at home parent with a side art business…. then maybe I’d like myself. If I were thin, or motivated, or something….
I dunno… I’m just rambling now….