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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why it Looks like Generation Y has not started a Revolution

One of the unanswered questions for most Boomers is not why their kids don't want to be Facebook friends with them. It's more why their kid's generation or Generation Y has not started a revolution. I mean a full revolution with marches, roses stuck in rifles, blown up buildings, protest songs, and a real Iran-style Green revolution. Not just turning their Twitter profile green in support of Iran but physically creating mayhem on the streets.

A former ultimate frisbee teammate was an intern for the weekly respectable alternative paper. She told me that the Boomer publisher would continually ask the young interns why they haven't full-fledged revolted over the fact that the government has raised their university tuition, sent them to war, put the price tag for the current generation's social safety net on their tab, and shown no indication that the safety net will be around in 30 years. Today's corporations and businesses have blown off this generation with unpaid internships instead of real job offers. At least Generation X had the dot.com era to make some money and get some jobs but the best Generation Y got was the real estate bubble. The publisher was seriously befuddled. Boomer musicians were also befuddled as Neil Young was the first one to produce a major war protest album. When a 62 year old Canadian gets visibly pissed off before 20-something Americans over a quagmire, clusterf#ck of a war, we have entered an alternative universe.

As I write this, I realize that there has been major protests on college campuses this week due to tuition hikes. However, there was no lasting collateral damage like the Boomer protests in the 60's. On the other hand, I have realized that Generation Y is not going gently into that good night. They are raging in a much more subtle and clever way. The Generation Y revolution is alive and well and you do not need to stop bathing or shaving to join it. What's made it so potentially powerful is the Generation Y revolution is more like the fox that has you halfway digested before you even realize it.

As I write my Generation Y thesis, I also realize that not all Generation Y is the hyperconnected, digitally bar scanned generation that I depict. The Economist wrote an excellent article showing that a good portion of Generation Y is just as digitally frustrated as any other generation. However, there were also a good portion of the Boomers who cursed out building destruction and national guard provoking protests because they prevented them from getting an afternoon snack at the student union. This part of the bell curve is not blogged about and I will not break that tradition.

Generation Y's protest is so clever because they are building a parallel corporate structure that may get powerful enough to defeat today's entrenched corporate interests. They are tuning out and dropping out of today's corporate America and trying to build the future corporations with their entrepreneurial ventures. Rather than learn folk songs and retreat to communes, they are building new web-based communication tools, web-based businesses, and the corresponding work cultures. While they are revolting, they are creating skills that will also make them valuable to today's corporations if they choose. Generation Y had to develop a resume and learn skills earlier than any previous generation. Their revolutionary activities are resume building and their wardrobe is still business rather than psychedelic casual.

I came to this conclusion after throwing my last fit at a Generation Y business idea that caused me to sputter like Daffy Duck at my computer. Over the last few months, I've read much fewer Generation Y blogs because the lack of nutritional content in their posts made my stomach hurt. I lost interest in more tools to organize and throw up more user generated content that served as rationalizations for choices or decisions, comment bait with unformed ideas that begged for others opinions, another analogy that compared some daily job function to sex or cartoons, and recycled how to lists. All the video blogging struck me as being an excuse for being too lazy to write something. Is all this material creating a hockey stick graph of worthless crap on the internet?

However, the producers of this crap seem to have some talent. Others seemed to be really excited about it. Venture capitalists even funded some of it. The Economist article that I linked above explained how Generation Y uses a you tube video that way that I write an essay. It's the same effort to create the content but different medium.

Therefore, I pictured a world where these Generation Y blog businesses and marketing start-ups became revenue-producing businesses. If that happened, I pictured a world where I would produce videos instead of power point presentations or where I had to learn to compress my business communications into 140 character tweets. On the other hand, these Generation Y businesses could fail, video blogging could revert back to only being the primary marketing tool for the sex worker industry, and the world could decide to lose the attention deficit disorder and learn to read more than 140 characters. If that happens, Generation Y dusts themselves off, updates their resume, and more easily gets hired into the current corporate structure.

A revolution that no one knows about after it already declared war is a very clever and potentially powerful revolution. I may have to decide whose side I'm on.


sewa mobil said...

great article
nice posting i really like it

Jordy said...

As a Generation Y, CRMBA student who is looking to focus his future on social media, this article was a very interesting read for me.

I believe that the age of Web 2.0 tools and gadgets will evolve into something quite similar to itself rather than regress back to a more traditional state of being. As long as the Internet is alive and well, every day larger amount of people will be able to control the media they're exposed to, every day more people will have the option to create online content.

The "crap" filters will have to become more sophisticated, of course, but there's always room for random opinion, entertainment, and folk inspired news (or all three rolled in to one).

Stuff like cloud computing and the concept of unified communications are already starting to awaken. This is why I see a career as a social media/marketing specialist to be a very viable choice.

Deadhedge said...

@Sewa mobil, thanks for the comment

@Jordy, thanks for the insight. You raise a good point with cloud computing and unified communications. Improvements in hardware or infrastructure have driven internet growth and functionality as much as the content, sites, or programs.

My biggest questions about the business viability are related to the ability of these sites to make money. They can definitely attract users but the revenue models aren't there yet.

Marc Snyder said...

Image credit: Marc Snyder, Fiji Island Mermaid Press

Of course, I'm not Gen Y, but you still might be using it as an illustration of the content crap problem. Nonetheless. . .

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