Generation/Cusp: Net, MTV, Cold Y


Angelina Jolie

Net Generation (Joshua Glen)

I’ve borrowed the term Net Generation from books like “Wikinomics,” which defines Americans born from the mid-1970s on as “the first generation to be socialized in a world of digital communications.” Also called the iGeneration, or Generation M (for Multitasking), or the Google Generation, it almost goes without saying that Netters take listservs, email and instant messaging, Google and Wikipedia, MySpace and Facebook, YouTube and Flickr for granted. Netters also don’t remember life before fast computers and Internet service; they are a wired generation, sometimes accused of addiction to instant gratification. They don’t read print newspapers, buy CDs, or rent DVDs, and their collective grasp of the concepts of copyright and intellectual property is shaky, at best.

But not to worry! In his 1996 book “Playing the Future,” Douglas Rushkoff predicted that “digital kids” weaned on Macs and MTV weren’t screwed, as some pundits feared; instead, they were evolving into a generation uniquely capable of succeeding in a chaotic, highly networked 21st century. In his 2005 book “Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter,” Steven Johnson updates the argument, arguing that complex videogames and multi-plot TV shows have made American youth smarter and more prepared for the complexities and multitasking of contemporary life than Atari and “Eight is Enough” did for PCers.

ch920318.jpgCalvin — 6 years old in 1985 — is a Netter

minibikes-jackass_2.jpg The hard-working “Jackass” crew

MTV Generation (Wikipedia)

The MTV Generation is a term sometimes used to refer to English-speaking and European people born between roughly 1975-1986 (although 1988 has been suggested as an end date), a generation whose adolescence and coming of age is perceived to have been heavily influenced by 1990s era popular culture in general and mass media in particular. Their early psychosocial exposure to these factors is thought to have been unprecedented and, along with peer pressure, resulted in a peculiar, homogenous youth culture defined by a deep appreciation of the fashion trends, perspective, attitude and music popularized by MTV and similar media (Viva, Triple J etc.) that rose to prominence in the late 1980s. Also note that “[w]ith the proliferation of technology, the internet, beepers and cell phones have become social lifelines for this generation. They are technology savvy, independent and resourceful.”[1]

According to the Generations theory of William Strauss and Neil Howe, it can be seen as a cusp between Generation X (1961-1981) and the Millennial Generation (1982-2001).[2] They were born during the upsweep in birth numbers of the baby bust between the babybooms of 1946-64 (the Census Bureau classification of the baby boomers) and 1987-94.[3]

Gen (X + Y) + WTC = ?Coming of age in a time of cataclysm (Camille Dodero)


By some flimsy measuring tool, I’m more Gen X than Gen Y, more Nirvana than ’N Sync. But I don’t really fit into either category. People 10 years older than I am, after all, remember life when nuclear meltdown loomed darkly over each day. Sure, I have vague memories of hearing about the horrors of The Day After, a 1983 made-for-TV movie about post-nuclear holocaust. But such doomsday scenarios never had much effect on my world-view, mostly because at the age of seven, I could still disentangle myself emotionally from things I couldn’t comprehend.

That same youthful detachment shades much of my generation’s experience with American national tragedy, and I think that this separates today’s twentysomethings from today’s thirtysomethings. My experience with national sorrow began when the Challenger exploded, when I was in fourth grade. When my elementary-school teacher got word of the accident, she collapsed into a chair and sank her head into her arms. No one in my class could figure out what was going on, but we obviously sensed that it was something grave.

Cold Y (Wikipedia)

Cold Y Generation refers to those earliest Gen Yers who are old enough to have memories of the Cold War era that ended in 1991 with the fall of communism in eastern Europe. The exact dates of when the generation begins are subject to the same disagreements as those regarding Generation Y as a whole, but are generally stated as between 1976 and 1981. [1] The end date is easier to be placed, being defined by the youngest age at which someone could remember the end of the Cold War. This places the cut-off date at around 1985.

Newspapers in the Information Age (Robyn Holukoff)

Each item we find newsworthy is cross-referenced with other sources, making the newspaper a starting point, if it is used at all. There are other reasons to forgo the subscription – the slants, the distrust of newspapers, and many mentioned the ‘obscene waste’ of paper. Since most, or all of the information is online, getting a newspaper at the worst is absurd, and at the least redundant.

My generation; termed the Cold Y generation, was the first to have computers in the home. In general, we find the technology easy; easier than sitting still and being told what’s newsworthy. We also have learned to take everything with a grain of salt; one point of view isn’t authoritative, but a consensus is. The statement, “I know what’s going on; I read the paper,” is nearly nonsensical – I imagine the response from my peers would be “And…?”