The Viral Generation

I’ve been interested for a while about the Strauss and Howe Generation Cycles. I’m a big believer in “history repeats itself.” Not quite as literally as, say, the Mayans, but, still all in all, I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the past.

That’s not what’s got me all frothy right now, though. You see, Stauss and Howe do not refer to the 13th Generation of America (1980-1993) as Generation Y, as was the most popular way to describe us in the 90s, mostly because the previous generation was called Generation X, and in general news media types are only creative when they are making up sensationalized news, they call us the Millennials.

But not because its a clever name, and I do think it is pretty clever. We’re defined as the generation that came into adulthood at the turn of the millennium, I get  that, but, they claim we call ourselves that.


I don’t know. Maybe I’m talking out of my ass here, but I had never even heard the term before I read it on the Wikipedia page. I’ve always heard the news and advertising as Generation Y, or briefly in a Pepsi Marketing ploy as Generation Next. Then, a few years back, I discovered an online, underground rapper that had been somewhat lumped in with the Nerd-core guys, even though he wasn’t one, by the name of MC Lars, and heard his song, iGeneration, for the first time.


Since the first time I heard this song, the term iGeneration has really struck me as exactly what we are. We are a generation who’s entire existence has been prepackaged, predetermined, viral marketing crap. As a generation, we’ve practically sold our souls to Apple, and the all powerful mind control turtleneck of Steve Jobs. Of course, iGeneration has now become common usage enough that the media had to label someone with it, and they chose the next set of kids on the street. Maybe they deserve it more, after all, a kid born in 1992 is now and adult in 2010, and probably has never even seen a cassette tape, and only remembers CDs as being used for video games.

We were the first real internet generation, though. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to call us the eGeneration. We were sold out before we had a chance, and the entire economy collapsed right before we got our hands on it.

Sounds like a dot-com scheme to me.

Really, everything in our lives has been one big marketing push. Our sense of self is completely wrapped up in our consumer lifestyle. We market ourselves to each other in the form of Social Media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We measure our accomplishments by how many friends or followers we have, all the while putting ourselves in a prime position to advertise on the behalf of products we don’t even know we’re advertising.

In the 80s, people became walking billboards, wearing shirts and hats advertising whatever brand they thought was cool. A few years back, that was added to, when marketers found a way to actually infect our creative outlets with advertising.  Viral marketing and Alternate reality games are brilliant clever ways to make sure we’re paying attention to exactly what they want us to see, and we happily oblige them.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing, what I am saying is it is one of the many things that defines us as a generation of Americans, the Viral Generation.

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September 11, 2001