Bitching about an up-and-coming generation is nothing new. And now it’s Gen Y’s turn to bear the brunt of the complaining. We have been dubbed entitled, lazy, over-sharing and egotistical. While I don’t dispute that social media rules our lives or that we can be wishy-washy when it comes to choosing a career, I do think that my generation has been put under more intense scrutiny than prior generations thanks to the information age that we live in.
If you do a Google search on “bad things about Gen Y,” some 586 million results will pop up compared to the sparse 32 million or so for “good things about Gen Y.” The latest articles to “explain” millennials (such as this by my colleague Sandy Hingston) perpetuate the negative stereotypes. We’re seen as a group of whiners who don’t have a work ethic and think we’re all special snowflakes or Peter Pan. Many of these pieces fail to address the economic shit-show that happened while most of us were preparing ourselves for post-collegiate life. But I digress.
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When I first moved to Philadelphia, I was 22, completely naïve and a bit stupid. I had spent three years of my life living in rural Vermont learning how to milk cows and grow flowers before returning to suburban Pennsylvania to finish my B.A. in English literature and work in an independent bookstore. I didn’t know bad people existed. I was still a starry-eyed virgin fawn in a field laden with daisies.
I was innocent enough not to know that I shouldn’t walk down Broad Street carrying two melons in my arms at about chest level, even if the melons were two for a dollar. It wasn’t until years later that I finally understood why the men shouted scathing things about “big titties” and “I wanna suck those melons so hard” at me.
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As I sit here alone in my bedroom with my dog, I have a community of 1,077 Facebook “friends” and a combined total of some 700 Twitter and Instagram followers. I know because I can see their faces on my laptop and iPhone. I can read their thoughts, see pictures of their dinner and interact with them through likes, comments, emojis and tweets. We all exist as serif typography on a bright screen, and yet we are still alone, and if less lucky, lonely.
But how can we all not be lonesome when we’re substituting online relationships for real ones? When we’re creating digital communities that inherently are neighborhoods with no people? When we are paying writers to act as modern day Cyranos, crafting online dating profiles and messages for men who have no time to meet and get to know a woman, let alone make their own Match.com profiles?
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One of my resolutions for 2014 (besides the annual “This year, I will quit smoking, drink tons of water and actually attend the spinning classes I spend $150 a month for”) was to quit Facebook. My intent was not to break up with the social media site to assert some “I’m too cool to even be on the grid” hipster mentality; I’ve just realized how much Facebook has been messing with my mind.
There comes a certain point in a woman’s life (i.e. when you turn 30) when all of your social media platforms are filled with pictures and status updates of baby bumps, marathon races and vegan pot-roast recipes. And then it suddenly hits you: Facebook is boring because you’ve become boring.
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