Sunday, June 29, 2008

Generational Revelations While Stoned, and Other Thoughts

So Josh and I spent our weekend at our friend’s enormous mansion on Long Island. It was my first time in Long Island and I actually found it to be pleasantly relaxing compared to the rumble tumble of city life. There are a lot of annoying accents and a startling lack of good iced coffee places, but otherwise I can kind of understand why people want their kids to grow up there. It’s close enough to the city that they can feel somewhat cultured, but far enough away that you can feel safe in the confines of suburbia.

So on Friday night we rolled a joint and grabbed a bottle of wine and went out on the trampoline to hang out. I don’t know if it was the weed or just the feeling of freedom, with lots of open space and the heavy sky above us, but we started having this really deep conversation about - you guessed it - our generation, and of course, the internet. It started because Josh nervously admitted that he’s afraid he’ll never become a real adult who pays taxes and has drycleaning and knows what a W-4 form is. But I mean, he’s not alone: I’m also terrified that I’ll never be smacked into adulthood. I think that everyone feels this way at some point, especially in your early 20’s, but I think that our generation is in a precarious position that is much, much different than the generations that came before us. We are the first people to come of age having grown up with the internet. Perhaps we are lazier because of it, but overall we are also smarter. We are a generation whose knowledge is boundless as long as Google continues to be boundless. We can cure our illnesses and write our theses and meet our boyfriends with a few strokes of a keyboard. And we’ve essentially known how to do this our entire lives. It sounds great, but it actually puts us in a more difficult position than our predecessors.

The fact is that few of us will ever hold a steady job because - due to the internet - jobs have become so specialized, and so too, then, have majors and classes and programs of study. I am not a Journalism major, I am a Cultural Journalism major. We are a generation that has more opportunities and choices to make than any of the generations before us, and that has caused us to remain relatively stagnant in the face of potential success. Even the school at NYU I attend allows me to tailor my major to fit snugly within my exacting interests. Because of the internet, we have all been allowed to carve our specific niches that are highly specialized and cater only to things we are particularly interested in. Stumble Upon is a perfect example of that: check the boxes that correlate to topics you’re interested in, and all at once you only have to view webpages that correspond with those interests.

And it’s a good and bad thing, I think: I do believe that we are a generation that gets to know our inner selves at an earlier age and on a more sophisticated level than those before us, but I also think that we close ourselves off to a lot of things because we maintain such a strict grip on our interests at such a young age. And I think living in New York only amplifies this problem. New York is its own bubble, and I tend to fall prey to the line of thinking best characterized by the line, “If it didn’t happen in New York, it didn’t happen.” For example: Gawker is such a huge part of my life - it affects what I talk and write about, what I read and even how I read. And yet most people outside of New York probably don’t even know about Gawker, let alone what a galley is or who Julia Allison last slept with.

And so perhaps we can apply to ourselves, now, a criticism that many outsiders apply to the Gawker media world: because of the internet, have we all become too insidery? Too highly specialized to be able to relate to anyone who doesn’t understand us on a very specific level? I will never hold a steady job because the career path I’m looking towards - writing or publishing - is inherently unstable. A lot of us are in this same boat together, refusing to maintain an office job at the chagrin of our parents and grandparents who have slaved away in a cubicle for decades, now - because we know what we want and yes, we are spoiled - by celebrity gossip and reality television and Facebook narcissism - so that we will stop at nothing to get it. Like generations before us, we are at a point where we must choose between what we should do and what we want to do - but for us millennials, because of the way the internet gladly cracked open the world so it feels delicate like an egg in the palm of our hand - we are choosing to do what we want to do at shockingly higher rates than the preceding generations.

This might ultimately make us happier, but it also scares the shit out of older people who look at young people like we’re apt to destroy everything. The irony, of course, is that the world was made a shitty place long before we were ever born, and now it’s our job to make the best of it. And maybe making selfish choices that lead to personal happiness is just our way of coping.

-Jess

7 comments:

whoyouwerewith said...

omg not true. the best iced coffee is on li. you should have asked.

Jess and Josh said...

My bad. The Coffee Beaneary was pretty good.

nina said...

Or maybe making selfish choices that lead to personal happiness will also lead us millennials to pursue careers that we actually love/will succeed in (i.e. we can and WILL work to make the world a better place if we try to?).

Anonymous said...

but what about the ENVIRONMENT?


sorrry....just watched Wall-E

Marshall said...

Alec Baldwin grew up on Long Island.

ash said...

in mr.roy's hometown!

LOLSAM said...

wait. what's a galley?