Some people (my parents) have told me that I make my life too public. I check into places on Facebook. I post reviews of my workouts or the dinner I just ate. I probably share way too many selfies. Although I’ve cut back on these practices slightly as I’ve gotten older, I still tend to follow the same overall patterns. I make it a point not to be political via social media forums (I don’t enjoy inciting riots and breaking up rants among typically misinformed users) unless I feel very, very strongly about a particular issue. For the most part I prefer to keep things light, airy, and chipper. I have never felt exposed or impersonal or like I was sharing too much. I don’t think I need to “dial back” or be more reserved. I think part of this stems from my (overly) extrovert tendencies. Maybe partly from my deep, inexplicable desire to have everyone like me.
I think some of it, though, is part of my generation. I identify as a millennial, both technically (I was born in 1990) and in mindset, views, and overall practices. There are a lot of stigmas associated with the label and in all honesty, I don’t really think it’s fair. We are a generation caught in the middle; born during the days of glowing economy, cheap gas, and affordable mortgages, and we graduated into a society coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression with some of the highest student loan debt in history. I can’t take credit for the following but, I think this sums it up perfectly:
Ours was the last generation that grew up with all those bright promises of “work hard, go to college, and you’ll have a successful life,” only to find those hopes abruptly dashed when the housing bubble burst. Millennials have grown up expecting that disappointment, because for them, the problem has been there since Day One. So 90’s kids aren’t just nostalgic… we’re BITTER. And we ache for those days when we could still think that the world was boundless and full of the opportunities we were promised since the first day of kindergarten.
I remember playing outside until the streetlights came on; walking around the grocery store unattended, trying to amuse myself while my mom filled our cart; riding in the front seat of the car without a seatbelt when I was barely 5 years old; picking up a relative from the airport and being able to walk right up to the gate. For so many of us, our childhood was brazenly interrupted (thanks, Bin Laden) and we were forced to take on all new kinds of worries, like terrorism threats and anthrax and, eventually, the housing bubble and student loan interest rates. Defined by this history is an entire generation of children who watched two of our proudest landmarks go up in smoke while we sat in our classrooms, not fully understanding what was happening but somehow knowing that things would never be the same after that. An entire generation of children who are forever bound by that experience – the experience of seeing The Greatest Country in the World under attack and forever having the course of our lives changed. And entire generation of children who inherited a wealth of problems and within whose hands our country’s future now lies.
So… why write? Why share? Why do we take pictures? Why do we tell everyone that we bought a new car, or went on vacation, or didn’t go on vacation and instead got ahead on our car payments. Why do we feel the need to spill every detail of our lives? Why are we so wrapped up in technology and Facebook statuses and Tweets and text messages? Why are we so into each other?
I think it has little to do with narcissism or self-indulgence or braggadocio and much more to do with comfort. Groups of people who witnessed such shattering events at formidable ages (Columbine, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina) don’t grow up to just “keep to themselves.” We seek solace in one another’s company, in another person’s acceptance of us, and even in their understanding of our struggles. We need to know that others are feeling our pain. We need to know that our experiences (read: hard times) are not unique. We need to know its not just us.
This is not to say that we take pleasure in others’ trials. Maybe it’s just that the old adage rings true: misery loves company. I write because I need to share my thoughts. I need to know that at least one other person agrees with me (but hopefully more); that someone else has gone through what I am going through; that someone else has made it out.
Now, I am not so self-important as to think that only one generation has been affected by a tragedy as harsh as 9/11 or the threat of terrorism, or a harsh and disappointing economy. I just think it stands to reason that it’s a bit different for us. By the time the Towers fell and the ensued downward spiral began, my parents had finished college and purchased a home and were driving brand new vehicles. They had a hefty savings account. Childhood memories that hadn’t been tainted by some faceless, foreign enemy that threatened everything they knew. Gen-Xer’s had already written a huge portion of their history and had been given the chance to make a start under different circumstances. Millennials, well… it’s been a little different for us.
So, some stereotype says that I’m narcissistic, lazy, entitled, and over-indulgent. I say that I’m educated, technologically savvy, environmentally conscious, tolerant, and accepting. I also like to write blog posts and share my experiences and take a good selfie now and then… but only if the lighting is right 🙂