Well reasoned and thoughtful piece. As a Gen Xer I really struggle to understand today’s youth and their obsession with popularity. For myself and my peers to be popular was a death knell. It was the the one thing which was to be avoided at all costs. We estimated the worth of things (music, movies, television, careers, food, etc.) as inversely related to their popularity. Of course there were exceptions but we had a real passion for discovery of the new, the weird, or the rare. Finding something great before anyone else had even heard of it was valued for its own sake. Being different was prized not feared. Taking that approach to life forces exposure to a wide range of opinions, cultures, beliefs, philosophies, etc. It actively pushes against the limits of the known and the safe. Of course it cut against the grain of the consumerist/capitalistic impulses of our parents and out of that conflict I believe the stereotype of the lazy/slacker Gen Xer was born.

It wasn’t until I grew older that I fully realized how much that attitude was a direct rejection of my/our parents (the boomers) values, which as you point out, tended towards that which was successful, growing, etc., i.e. what was popular.

What changed in just one or two generations? I see gen Y and the millenials as two sides of the same coin. Both tend toward obsession with fitting in. Being different is now seen as the worst of all possible outcomes. What is unpopular or rare or weird is that way because it is less valuable. If it were more worthy of interest, if it were interesting, it would be popular. The market has rendered its judgement and that judgement is accepted as de facto correct. Again I wonder why? what changed? Its easy enough suggest it is the internet, the rise of social media, the widespread adoption of smart phones, or any other technology bogeyman. As much as I love giving shit to the techno utopians and other Silicon Valley aholes, in this case I think that is too easy an answer. I have some ideas of my own but too tired to bother expounding any further at the moment.

Thanks for the post. Got me thinking. I always appreciate that.


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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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