Millennial. Generation Y. A demographic cohort that William Strauss and Neil Howe once characterized as civic-minded, with a strong sense of both local and the global community. We are benefactors of the Internet and we have privileged access to information. A generation neither booming with world war industrialization nor exiting from post-war grievances; we are able, ambitious, and entitled. We have the ability to view world politics, society, and consumerism with boundless liberty; learning and growing at a faster pace in this global village.
As digital natives, our adaptability to change is far superior than generations past. We swiftly adapt from VHS to DVDs and record players to cassettes to CDs and MP3s. We know what a floppy disk is yet can operate our digital lifestyle almost exclusively on Cloud. Our potential is limitless and our ambition is uncapped. We are pretty brilliant.
We live in a society where in order to remain relevant, this adaptation to newer norms and multitasking are crucial. There's no longer just a photographer. Nope. For she is now a photographer, drone videographer, DJ, and maker of cool vintage boy blazer ponchos. Our ability to express ourselves creatively is varied because of these numerous resources that allow us to connect. There's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat which allows us to be creators and consumers.
We share everything that we consume on these online platforms. We repurpose our works in a way that makes a simple post of a Marie Antoinette tart from Nadège Patisserie look like fine art. This art is a declaration of socially-encouraged thus socially-applauded narcissism that suggests that the creator is not only an active foodie of modern times but also one that has taken time to indulge...while documenting the entire process for all to see.
Our fascination with reality television unfolds into our day to day as we document our own lives in the same manner of the Kardashians, content captured and disseminated in real time. And our followers, the new television audience, rewards us. They reward our declaration with likes, comments, and finally, their followship.
However, should this photograph of the Marie Antoinette tart not yield the desired response, this entire declaration seems inadequate. This exhibitionistic effort has no voyeurs to validate it. There's a relative anxiety in participating in this type of reality show. We first augment our photograph then we filter it, crop it, write a fitting caption, and finally, with baited breath, we post it. Then we push refresh to see if it has produced any likes...we are happy when the likes hit the two digit mark; we sit comfortably when the likes exceed the three digit mark. These affirmations, until achieved, is what leads to the anxiety.
These works and the consequential affirmations build our virtual worth. The works have to be relevant. They must offer a level of artful curation and wit that marks our life far superior to that of others. Our posts must showcase the kind of access only we have or the type of wonderment our life basks in. Basically, our reality has to be one that sets us apart. Once our reality achieves that type of direction, the affirmations follow.
These affirmations are authored by a larger hashtag community of likemindedness that binds followers all around the world together. They understand that SNH stands for Sarcasm Noted Here. And they are the same community that says "I'm dying" when they are in fact not dying. We succumb to the pressure of producing brilliant works for this community and we empower them to be the validators of our declarations.
But these declarations are extensions of our real selves. If we put so much thought into our posts, and these posts are not validated...our psychology suffers. Because remember, we are are pretty brilliant and our artistry should be acknowledged...with the affirmations of the larger hashtag illuminati of people we won't ever know.
But the anguish has become more than that of yielding satisfactory affirmation quotas. This very artistry leads to anguish because your virtual worth becomes increasingly integrated into your personal life, your personal worth. Recent research indicates that as a society, we are less interested in "intrinsic" goals and more interested in "extrinsic" ones - viewing "money, fame, and image" as being among the more important life aspirations, whereas "self-acceptance, affiliation, and community" are less important.
And millennials are at the epicentre of all of this. Self acceptance, affiliation, community, image, fame. This is the area where the virtual and the real converge but an area where identity, culture, consciousness, and ethos that were once indoctrinated in our lives, is left undefined.
Older generations approach millennials as an exciting cohort that requires more understanding, more definition. However, us millennials are still negotiating our identities. To retaliate from this convergence abyss, some have taken to going analog and many exercise a digital cleanse. We hope that we can mentor the coming generation, whether we call them generation Z or Homeland Generation, to steer them to a new way of life. A life where the virtual is thoughtfully integrated into our real life and our real life is not psychologically impacted by the virtual.