Me, My Selfie, and Generation Z

Pop Culture

My Investigating Journalism professor at NYU once asked us a very interesting question. We were talking about the changing trends in the last few decades. Kurt Cobain was widely regarded as the voice of Generation X, the “lost” generation. Confused, independent, unconventional. The grunge kids. Then comes Mark Zuckerberg and Generation Y, the Facebook generation; the techies and the innovators.

“So what’s your generation called?” He asked all seventy of us mid-90s kids. The leaders of Generation Z. The privileged kids.

“The ‘selfie’ generation?” Someone answered from the back of the room. Laughter ensued. And that was pretty much the end of the discussion.

But is that really how we will be remembered in a decade or two? As the vain, spoilt kids who Instagrammed everything they saw and smoked pot and went to raves and jammed to hits about “anacondas” and “wrecking balls?” What if this is actually who we are? The lazy, tasteless kids who care about little and do even less? My mother must have reminded me a thousand times how lucky I am to be born in this age rather than hers, telling me how kids my age have no idea what “suffering” or “pain” really means. She is the first one in her family to learn English, the first to go out of her home town for college, and the first to leave China. I already have my path paved out beautifully in front of my feet. I have my own stash of Apple products, eat three meals a day, and get to go to fucking NYC for college without ever breaking a sweat about my financial status. It doesn’t escape me for a second how lucky I am to be born in a family like mine. I don’t always appreciate it nearly as much as I should, but I do realize it.

Being brought up in such privileged circumstances increases expectations. They might not say it, but I think most parents (at least immigrant parents) expect us to achieve more than they did, given the luxurious circumstances in which we grew up. And sometimes it scares the shit out of me that I’m never going to fulfill the expectations my parents have for me. It’s hard not to wonder what my parents or my friends’ parents could have achieved if they had the internet or even a computer back in their days. Even without all that fancy ass technology, they still came up with shit like the internet and Microsoft and awesome rock music. So what is there left for us to discover and brag to the world? Are we just meant to be users rather than innovators? I mean, why waste so much energy making something new when you can’t beat the original?

But then again, we haven’t exactly had the chance to be creators. We’re still getting used to all this fabulous new shit that all these geniuses are still inventing. We won’t be known for the light-bulbs or legendary guitar solos or Google Crome or even Flappy Bird, but we do have the future in our hands. Generation Z is just hatching. The oldest of us are barely over twenty. Maybe our predecessors’ shoes will be too large to fill, and maybe we never will fulfill our potential (I certainly don’t have much faith in myself). But before we’ve tried I think we should have hope. Whatever happens, I’m quite confident we won’t be known as the “selfie” generation at the end of this decade.

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