The New Generation -- Misunderstood or Just Different

We live in an interesting world, and interesting times, for sure. Of course, this is the world we live in today, and one that may be interesting to us. However, for those of us that did not know of another time, this is interesting stuff. For instance, as we sat on the train ride back to London yesterday, we chatted about our times as kids growing up in India and Russia respectively, how we grew up with a limited selection of TVs, sofas, furniture, cupboards, etc. We barely had three TV channels in India, let alone the tons of stuff that is streamed online today. "My nieces and nephews don't know a world without the Internet today," one of my friends said. I don't think it was meant as a derogatory comment in anyway; it was purely an observation of how things had changed. More importantly, I think it was the base for the point he was trying to get at. It was more about perceptions and how today's generation viewed the world.

I think the conversation started from jobs and how easy it was for the current generation to switch work, how they didn't value stability and all the options that are available to them in this day and age of social media. "There are food bloggers and writers on Instagram that are making a living out of doing just that... nice pictures, with some rubbish commentary below," I grumbled. Naturally with a blog of my own that doesn't really generate any monetary or other benefit for me (other than a few plaudits here are there), I am not happy that the attention goes to all these new age techies. "It's all about how you market yourself and these guys are good at it," said my friend across the table.

"And they have to be. In an age where there is limited job security, employment rates for the young are low and competition is intense, they have to figure out other ways," he added. And maybe that's true. They have to adapt, and so far they are doing a bloody darn good job of it. Maybe that's one reason for it and maybe that's not really the reason for it. In a number of countries around the world today, youth unemployment ranks high; people under the age of 25 are struggling to find jobs. For those that have the jobs, salaries haven't kept pace with inflation and price rises. So, while you may be able to find a job, whether it pays you enough to sustain yourself is another question. What is one to do in a scenario such as this? You're going to want to do everything in your power to make sure you lead a life you were meant to lead, that you believed you should be leading, and that you aspire to lead.

However, he wasn't convinced this model was sustainable. More importantly, my friend viewed and attributed this trend as the new generation being lazy, as opting for the easier way out. It could be another possible reason, but I don't think it can also be the sole reason for this latest trend. I however attribute this behavior to a few other reasons as well. In this day and age of media penetration and information at your fingertips, perceptions are easily created. The idea that a Mark Zuckerberg or a Jack Ma have made billions and a life of fame and fortune from a "simple" web application seems like a source of inspiration (false aspiration?) for this generation. Surely, if they can build this app in no time and take over the world, we are smart enough to do the same, they think. A social media presence through a blog or an Instagram with a 1000-plus followers is only a starting point in this direction. "Someone is surely bound to notice me and my infinite talents and make me the next guru of all things Internet."

Next up, in my view is the simple thought process and ideology of this generation, their belief system, if you would like to call it that. Unlike the baby boomers of the 60s and 70s and maybe even the kids of the early 80s, who viewed job stability and a loyalty as keys to a happy life. The question then is, how can today's generation share the same view? In an age where redundancies and job losses are common, why would a millennial show any kind of loyalty to any single firm? They know it could be short-term, with little to no reward. So, whereas people from my father's generation could have spent an entire lifetime at a single firm (we are talking 30-40 years), that trend doesn't apply in today's age. "Aren't we just better off doing our own thing and being masters of our own destiny then? At least we know when we will be hired or fired... when we can come and when we can go." Working in an industry that has been particularly susceptible to job losses and a high degree of volatility in recent years, I personally can't really fault that kind of thinking.

Lastly, it is the feeling of grandeur, the desire to "be someone" that drives this generation. Maybe they are believers in the Gandhian ways -- after all it was the great Mahatma who once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Susceptible to such visions myself, I can relate to the feeling. For too long this generation has heard and read about the damage down to the planet, to society and to their fellow beings. They blame it on the generations gone by. But they don't just blame it on them; they want to do something about it. And they want to use the power of the Internet and social media to achieve these goals, to turn things around. They want to be the next presidents and prime ministers of their respective countries; they want to be the next bunch of CEOs that stops using fossil fuels and instead relies on green technologies, and they want to be the next inventors of those technologies.

It's a noble thought; it's good to see the desire and the ambition. You do sometimes wonder though whether it is all a bit unrealistic, idealistic and wishful. But then again, coming from a generation in which stability and long-term job security was drilled as a virtue, it all seems very alien to me. But then so did Facebook and Instagram a few years ago!