Those of us born in the mid-1970s until about the mid-1990s don’t know what to call ourselves. Are we the Millennial Generation? Generation Y? Generation Next? The MTV Generation? The Net Generation? The Peter Pan Generation?
Whatever the label, something about my generation is amiss.
Many of us–as we near 30–look, feel and act like we’re still kids. We’ve earned college degrees from some serious programs, but find ourselves working at Starbucks. Our debit is enormous, our savings minuscule. Desperate for direction, we live with Mom and Dad.
A myriad of socioeconomic forces have led to this troubling state of affairs. Some blame the child-like adults (we’re spoiled), while others find fault with our parents (they spoiled us). This, of course, is not the whole story.
Once upon a time, Americans believed in the concept of a stable identity. Personhood was fixed and firm, and “who you are,” as a known entity, truly mattered. In this world, based on the notion of self-as-character, people focused on the individual; the Actor took precedence.
When the effects of modernity were set into motion, however, America entered the self-as-performance phase. Here one’s innate identity came into question. People began viewing themselves as socially constructed beings. Instead of “who you are,” modern society ran on an Action-driven system emphasizing “what you show to those you know.”
By the time my generation arrived, another major shift occurred. At the very point my peers and I were supposed to “grow up,” the Internet took hold and hasn’t let go.
Today we lead our actual lives while simultaneously maintaining our digital lives. In this era of the self-as-representation, the Act takes center stage. It’s not about who you are or what you know–it’s about the layout of your online profile, the cleverness of your user name, the number of hits on your blog.
Searching for the holy trinity? Try Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Devoid of a cultural GPS, my generation isn’t simply lost. We’re just here, in front of the computer screen, connected in our disconnect.