Tom Brokaw calls the folks who survived the Great Depression and went on to fight in Word War II “the Greatest Generation”. That’s fine – i’ll give them that. When they make movies based on the Greatest Generation, we get Saving Private Ryan. When they make movies based on my generation, we get Dude, Where’s My Car?
Once more into the breach, dear bro …
Following the Greatest Generation, we had the Baby Boomers, and then Generation X (which is lazy naming), followed by my people, Generation Y (which is even lazier). i have a feeling we’ll eventually take to renaming Generation Y “the Internet Generation” if we haven’t already.
Rare Sandwich Filling
The interesting thing i’ve noticed about the Internet Generation is that it’s sandwiched between two generations of people who are completely crap at using technology and computers: the kids who are now 45-50, who went to high school in the 80’s, and their kids, who are currently in – or graduating from – college and University. The difference between the kids of the 80’s and their kids is that while the parents arguably didn’t need to know how to use computers effectively in the workplace while they were being hired, their kids absolutely do. But since the parents weren’t immersed in the Internet and computers, they raised their kids to be similarly disconnected. The result is a generation of kids who absolutely do need to know how to use computers and the Internet, but don’t. i dub them the Most Useless Generation.
Oh yes i did …
i can honestly say that one of the biggest thrills, one of the most memorable times in my life, was when i sat down at my friend’s computer while he launched mIRC, an Internet Relay Chat client. These were the early days of home Internet usage … the 14.4 dial-up days. My friend, a year older than me, had convinced his parents to get access because he wanted to use the Internet at home. Universities across Canada were providing Internet access to their students, right in their own dorm rooms.
Until then, the only real access high school students could get was on ONE machine in the school library, IF their school was progressive. And that computer was treated like a rare and precious angel fart – you had to book it in advance, and the whole time you used it, you’d have the head librarian breathing down your neck making sure you didn’t “hack NASA” or whatever.
Damn you and your far-fetched legacy, Broderick.
But here in my friend’s room, and in Universities across the country (it was one agonizingly long year until i’d get my chance), we had unfettered, gloriously unsupervised access to the Internet. The thrill – the unbridled thrill of chatting to complete strangers in a text-only chat channel was a magical moment i’ll honestly never forget as long as i live. i’m not being cynical here: it absolutely blew my mind.
All through grade school, only the nerdiest kids learned to use computers because it was a niche interest that effectively turned you into a social outcast. But in high school, with the advent of the Internatz, everyone learned how to use computers – often under their own initiative – because computers became that damned interesting.
Flash forward to today, when i discover while teaching group of college students that they don’t know how zip a file and send it as an attachment in an email. This is email we’re talking about – the Internet’s killer app – and it was causing anxiety attacks in students enrolled in a computer art program.
This is the generation of kids who were horror-stricken that i’d been teaching Sunday School using Wikipedia as a research guide. Their teachers have long told them that Wikipedia is absolutely unreliable, and they’re not to use it. This is the generation that can’t Google worth a fat damn.
Your Google-Fu is weak. Now we fight. Heeya.
This is also the generation, incidentally, that doesn’t offer the courtesy of a phone call or an email when they don’t come into work. This comes from both personal experience and from anecdotal word-of-mouth, as i’ve heard that many employers are frustrated with The Most Useless Generation. Instead of giving notice, they just don’t show up. If they don’t want to do something because they don’t find it fun or interesting or engaging, they don’t do it. i once had an intern quit on me by phone call, with zero notice, and i suspect it’s because he wasn’t having any luck with the CSS task i’d given him. Based on all i’ve been hearing, i’m frankly surprised i received a phone call at all.
Let’s Get Out of Here
i’m not sure how to solve this problem, or even if we need to? Maybe we just have to put up with a generation of unemployable kids, until the next generation can put us back on track? Perhaps we can wage a special, separate World War III and draft everyone between the ages of 15 and 25 to fight it? But there’s a good chance they’ll find war either too difficult or too uninteresting, and will lay down their guns so they can butcher the English language in undecipherable text messages to each other.
Or maybe we should just build a spaceship to somewhere else? Everyone is freely invited to board it and get off this rock. We’ll send the invite by email.